The Law of First Fruits
Feb 08, 2008
Each of the three main feast days in Israel was a time when the first fruits were to be offered to God. Exodus 23:16 reads,
"(14) Three times a year you shall celebrate a feast to Me. (15) You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread [Passover]; for seven days you are to eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you at the appointed time in the month Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. And none shall appear before Me empty-handed. (16) Also you shall observe the Feast of the Harvest [Pentecost] of the first fruits of your labors from what you sow in the field; also the Feast of the Ingathering [Tabernacles] at the end of the year when you gather in the fruit of your labors from the field."
The three first fruits offerings were barley, wheat, and the fruits of the land. During Tabernacles at the end of the year, the wine was poured out as a drink offering to represent all of the fruit given to God.
The law of first fruits follows the same basic principle as that of the tithe, in that it was to be given to God for His labor in the field. As I explained in my article on The Law of the Tithe, God wants a return on His labor. He created dirt, air, the sun, the rain, etc., and so for His labor, He wants a return. For man's labor, he is allowed to keep 90% of the crop. This is also why Ex. 23:16 above calls it "the fruit of your labors from the field."
In the case of first fruits, God was to be given a token amount to represent His labor in the field, and then the farmers could return home and harvest their crops, keeping 90% of it for themselves. Since a tithe is the biblical tax system, it is based upon one's labor--God's labor and man's labor. This is also why tithes were not owed on every form of labor. Tithe was owed only where God had labored in the creation process. God is due a tithe upon crops, herds, fishing, lumbering, power plants, and any other enterprise where God has done some direct labor to contribute to the income. (See Lev. 27:30.)
The modern Church idea that tithe is owed for every form of income is simply a means of increasing revenue, based upon man's traditions, rather than God's law. If an employee takes home wages and desires to give an offering from it, whether 10% or not, it is called a "voluntary offering," not a tithe.
The basis of the first fruits offering is also the fact that God labored at creation and is thus a partner to all enterprises that utilize nature to generate income or "increase." The primary difference is that the first fruits of the feast days are more prophetic and speak specifically of the resurrections. Resurrection is a "harvest" from the ground.
The first fruits of the barley were to be given to God on the day after the Sabbath after Passover--called "Easter Sunday" today. Seven weeks later the wheat was ripe, and the first fruits of the wheat were therefore associated with the feast of Pentecost. These were the two grain offerings, the first being unleavened, and the second being leavened. They prophesy of the two resurrections mentioned in Revelation 20. The first resurrection is restricted to the overcomers who will rule with Christ (Rev. 20:5). The second resurrection, which includes everyone else (Rev. 20:12), includes both unbelievers and the rest of the believers, as Jesus said in John 5:28, 29.
The first fruits offering is obviously not the entire harvest, but only a beginning point. Paul tells us in Romans 11:16 (Emphatic Diaglott) that "if the first fruit be holy, so also the mass" (or lump, the rest of it). The first fruit sanctified the whole field that was to be harvested. Prophetically speaking, when the first fruits of the barley are offered to God at the time of the first resurrection, it will involve the manifestation of the sons of God. Those who inherit aionian life, or Life in The Age--that is, in the Tabernacles Age--will find their flesh (chaff) blown away by the wind of the Spirit. Barley needs only winnowing to remove its chaff. These manifested sons, then, will minister to the rest of the Church and to humanity during the Tabernacles Age to come, producing many more barley-type persons.
At the second resurrection (God's wheat harvest), all the dead will be raised, "both of the just and unjust," as Paul says in Acts 24:15. The believers from ages past will then be "saved yet so as through fire" (1 Cor. 3:15), some being given few lashes, others many (Luke 12:47, 47) before being given immortality. Their judgment will be of short duration. Even as wheat needs to be threshed to remove the chaff from the germ, so also will this body of believers need some threshing.
But the unjust, who were not justified by faith in Christ prior to that time, will be judged according to their works by the "fiery law" (Deut. 33:2) in the so-called "lake of fire." These are comparable to the grapes, which need a more severe treatment in order to obtain the new wine for God's table. Hence the biblical metaphor is used where God puts all things under His feet (1 Cor. 15:25). In those days, the grapes were trodden under foot in order to remove the juice from the pulp.
Yet the final result is that God sets His great Communion Table, having both unleavened and leavened bread, as well as wine for His Table. Time is the main factor here, for barley ripens first, wheat next, and finally the grapes ripen toward the end of the growing season.
The first fruits themselves prophesy of a greater harvest yet to come. The barley first fruits prophesy of more barley to come; the first fruits of the wheat prophesy of a greater harvest of wheat; and the seven drink offerings of wine on the seven days of Tabernacles prophesy of the greater harvest of wine and all the fruits of the land for which God has labored since the beginning.
It may be said that the overcomers are the first fruit of the Church, even as the Church is the first fruit of creation. James 1:18 says (Emph. Diag.),
"Having willed it, He begot us by the word of truth, in order that we might be, as it were a first fruit of His creatures" (i.e., creation).
James understood that the purpose of first fruits was not to be the only thing harvested, but rather that these were only the beginning of a much greater harvest. Thus, when we speak of the manifestation of the Sons of God, we are not talking about the entire harvest, but the first fruit of that harvest.
In Exodus 22:29, 30 we read,
" (29) You shall not delay the offering from your harvest and your vintage. The first-born of your sons you shall give to Me. (30) You shall do the same with your oxen and with your sheep. It shall be with its mother seven days; on the eighth day you shall give it to Me."
This was why Jesus, the first-born of Mary, was brought to the temple on the eighth day from his birth (Luke 2:21-23). He was presented to God as the first of the first-fruits. It is obvious that He was not the only one that God would claim, for we all have opportunity to become the sons of God (John 1:12). Jesus was a first fruit of the Overcomers and the manifested sons of God.
The law of first fruits, then, indicate a greater harvest yet to come. This understanding is of primary importance, if we ever hope to understand the purposes of God in the resurrections from the dead (i.e., the harvests from the ground). First fruits are certainly first to be presented to God, but the field is the world. All creation awaits its turn to be harvested.
This is the first part of a series titled "The Law of First Fruits." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones