The First-Fruit and the Harvest
The New Testament uses various symbolic illustrations to describe the relationship between the universal Church and Jesus Christ. These symbolic illustrations can help us to get a better understanding of our relationship with Christ. We have looked at some of these symbolic illustrations already, and today we discuss Christ’s relationship with the universal Church as illustrated by the First-fruit and the harvest.
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The Typological Fulfillment of the Feasts
When studying the symbolic illustration of Christ’s relationship with the universal Church as the First-fruit and the harvest, we should take cognisance that the universal Church is part of the overall harvest. This figure takes one to the prophetic and typological significance of the feasts of the LORD (Leviticus 23; Numbers 28-29; Deuteronomy 16; cf. Exodus 12). From the cross until his Second Advent to the earth, Jesus Christ typologically fulfilled, or will still fulfil, the feasts of the LORD not in terms of the Mosaic Covenant according to the Aaronic priesthood, but as High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek in terms of the New Covenant (Scholtz 2015:3).
The Feast of First-fruits
Christ was crucified on Passover, his sinless (unleavened) body was buried but He was raised on the third day, the day of first-fruits. 1 Corinthians 15:20 states that “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep”. According to the Feast of First-fruits, one sheaf (omer) of first-fruits of the barley harvest is waved before YHWH on the first morning after the Sabbath (Leviticus 23:10-11; Matthew 28:1; John 20:17). The Feast of First-fruits is observed on the first day of the week (cf. Exodus 23:19; Deuteronomy 8:7-9). God is thanked for his provision and as the consecration of this first fruit is acceptable, the whole harvest is likewise acceptable to Him (Proverbs 3:9-10; cf. Fuchs 1985:31; Edersheim 1994:203-205).
The Spring Harvest
The first-fruits from Passover until the day of Pentecost are collectively referred to as the spring harvest (Fruchtenbaum 2005a:12). Christ is the first-fruits of all who will be resurrected and who will receive glorified bodies. Not only has Christ risen from the dead, but He has already received his glorified body. First-fruits of the spring harvest are mentioned in Matthew 27:52-53 but they and all other Old Testament saints have not yet received their glorified bodies.
Where Does the Universal Church Fit in the Overall Harvest?
The wheat from Pentecost onwards until it is gathered is viewed as the summer harvest (Fruchtenbaum 2005a:12; cf. John 4:35). The summer harvest is gathered on the Feast of Trumpets, which takes place on the first day of the seventh month, and thus also on a New Moon festival. James 1:18 describes Church age believers as “a kind of first-fruits of his creatures”.
As to time, the autumn harvest stretches from the day after the Feast of Trumpets, through the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles. The autumn harvest will typologically be gathered after the typological fulfilment of the Day of Atonement with the nation of Israel and just before the typological fulfilment of the feast of Tabernacles (Revelation 14:5; cf. 7:14).
The Church age is therefore represented typologically by the summer harvest: from Pentecost until the rapture. Believers differ as to when the rapture will take place, but it will indeed take place (1 Corinthians 15:50-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). When it does, it will take place in a certain order. “The dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16b). This refers to all Church age believers who have already physically died – but note they are dead “in Christ” – all believers during the Church age are baptised into the body of Christ on the day they come to saving faith. What about Church age believers who are still physically living when the rapture takes place? “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them [the dead in Christ who have just received their glorified bodies] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:50-54).
The Lord of the Harvest
Christ died to pay the penalty of our sins but He himself had no sin. Death could not hold Christ down. Christ has been resurrected. After his resurrection, Christ Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth and he is now acting on behalf of the Lord of the harvest (cf. Matthew 9:38; 28:18). Since Christ has been resurrected — the First-fruit of those who have fallen asleep — believers will likewise be resurrected and receive glorified bodies. To Christ be the glory, great things He has done, great things He is doing and great things He will yet do!
Our next article in this series about the symbolic illustrations of the universal Church will focus on the Shepherd and His flock.
If you would like to read more about the Universal Church, we suggest you read the original article and source of this short series, The Universal Church, written by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum.
We also made use of The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, updated version by A. Edersheim, which was published in 1994 by Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody; as well as The Feasts of Israel, A Messianic Bible Study from Ariel Ministries by A.G. Fruchtenbaum, which was published in 2005 by Ariel Ministries, San Antonio, and Israel’s Holy Days in Type and Prophecy by D. Fuchs, which was published in 1985 by Loizeauz Brothers, Neptune and lastly Matthew 13 and the Feasts of the LORD by J.J. Scholtz which was published in 2015 by In die Skriflig [49(1), Art. #1900, 8 pages].
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