What is the significance of the "firstfruits" as referred to in 1 Corinthians 15:20 and James 1:18?
1 Corinthians 15:20 says that “…Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the FIRSTFRUITS of those who have fallen asleep.” James 1:18, however, refers to Christ’s true disciples, in this day and age, calling THEM firstfruits: “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of FIRSTFRUITS of His creatures.”
We also read in additional passages that true Christians, who are called to the truth and to salvation in this day and age, are referred to as “firstfruits”:
Revelation 14:4 says: “These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being FIRSTFRUITS to God and to the Lamb.”
In Romans 16:5, Epaeneteus is called “the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ.” 1 Corinthians 16:15 refers to the household of Stephanus as the “firstfruits of Achaia.”
These Scriptures, and many others, point out a sequence or time order–they refer both to the time of calling, and, mainly, to the time of the resurrection. Although some were called to the truth in Old Testament times (compare Hebrews 11), most true disciples of Christ were called for salvation since the beginning of the New Testament church, in A.D. 31, when the Holy Spirit was given to Christ’s apostles and disciples. Romans 8:23 says that Paul and others had “the firstfruits of the Spirit.” In addition to the time sequence of calling, the risen Christ became the FIRST or the “firstfruits” of those being resurrected from the dead, as an immortal spirit being and a glorified member of the God Family. Christ’s true disciples in this day and age will be resurrected or changed to immortality at the time of Christ Second Coming. But they, too, are just the firstfruits of many others who will be resurrected from the dead AFTER Christ’s Return.
When God was dealing with Israel of old, He required of them the firstfruits of the land derived from their labors. This included the first ripe of fruits, grain, oil, wine, and first of fleece plus honey. These were required of the people as an offering. These offerings were to be free of blemish, presented at the tabernacle, and were given by God to the priests for their work at the altar.
But was there any other reason God required “firstfruits” at that time other than looking for obedience in His people? Several Scriptures in the Old Testament give a hint that there was much more to what God was doing.
In Leviticus 23:10-17, we read of the requirement of the wave-sheaf offering. In addition to its significance in the counting of days in arriving at Pentecost–also called the Feast of Firstfruits–the significance attached to the waving of the sheaf of the firstfruits and the waving of the two baked loaves are most important in revealing God’s intent. The sheaf of the firstfruits represented Christ as the first of the firstfruits; and the two loaves represented those God has called down through the ages who, if faithful to their calling, will make up the firstfruits of God whom He will use as He establishes His Kingdom on this earth! Although some have felt that the two loaves represent those called into the truth in Old and New Testament times, it is much more likely, based on the Biblical evidence, that these two loaves represent all of those called, from the creation of man until the time of Christ’s Return, both from the tribes of Israel and from non-Israelite nations–the “Gentiles.”
Christ, being the first of the firstfruits, was the first to be resurrected from the dead and has returned to the Father to carry on with His duties of our High Priest and Mediator or Advocate, intervening before God on our behalf, as was pictured by the waving of the sheaf of the firstfruits.
When Christ returns to the earth to establish His Kingdom, those who have died in Christ, will be resurrected first to immortality and glory to meet Him in the air. Then those who are living and faithful to their calling will also be changed into spirit and will rise to meet their King in the air! This was pictured by the waving of the two loaves, making no difference as to their national or racial origin or heritage. Christ, along with those who are with Him, will then descend to the earth and He will stand in that day on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4).
Yes, Christ is the first of the firstfruits, and those who are His at His coming are the firstfruits of God.
1 Corinthians 15:22-23 tells us: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the FIRSTFRUITS, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.” The two resurrections noted here–Christ, in His day, and those at His coming–are represented by the wave sheaf offering and the Day of Pentecost [the Feast of Firstfruits].
1 Corinthians 15:24, still speaking about the resurrection from the dead, continues: “Then comes the end…” The balance of mankind will have the opportunity to be brought into the Kingdom later. This is pictured in God’s festivals: the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day. All of mankind will eventually have the opportunity to enter into and to have a part in God’s Kingdom. When this aspect of God’s plan is completed, Christ will deliver “the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death… the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him [God the Father], that God may be all in all” (verses 24-26, 28).
Once God calls an individual, in the order and at the time God has established, he will be required to be faithful to that calling in order to have the wonderful opportunity to live for eternity in that great Kingdom! For further information, please read our free booklet, “God’s Commanded Holy Days.”
Lead Writer: Edwin Pope