Just last week, we celebrated God’s Feast of Pentecost, and I gave a sermon titled “The Tapestry of Pentecost.” I want to begin sharing the content from that sermon with you today. There are several different elements being woven together in the observance of Pentecost that are intertwined to paint a picture that, when we see them assembled properly, make it one of the most inspiring and encouraging of God’s holy days.
“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.
‘And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Lord. And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs of the first year, without blemish, one young bull, and two rams. They shall be as a burnt offering to the Lord, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma to the Lord. Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats as a sin offering, and two male lambs of the first year as a sacrifice of a peace offering. The priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.
‘When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.’” (Lev. 23:10-22)
The foundation of Pentecost is keyed to a yearly event that takes place during the Days of Unleavened Bread, which we read about in verses 10-11 of Leviticus 23. Verse 15 tells us that the wave sheaf offering begins a 50 day countdown, and so it is foundational to this day of Pentecost and all it’s meaning. The wave sheaf was so important that God forbade them to eat of any part of the harvest until it was offered. Without the first sheaf, there was to be no harvest at all … and let’s remember that this first harvest in the promised land was a total gift from God, planted by the previous inhabitants of the land. All Israel had to do was reap it. This harvest was freely given, from that first sheaf of grain, to the gleanings that were left in the field for the poor at the end of the harvest. It was all free.
In a few moments, we’ll be looking at several scriptures that identify Jesus Christ as the first of the firstfruits of God’s spiritual harvest from the earth , so we could rightly call parts of John 3 a “parallel” scripture to what we just read in Leviticus 23. If we look at the context, there is an enlightening conversation going on here between Christ Himself and a pharisee, Nicodemus, who said he knew Christ was “a teacher sent from God.” Their whole conversation was about how to become born of the spirit, and about the Firstfruit lifted up as an offering to the Father.
“If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:12-16)
Verse 16 deserves to be so much more than just a slogan on a sign at pro football games. Here again we see that the Firstfruit is a freely given gift to humanity from God in heaven to initiate and to be the foundation of a spiritual harvest from the earth.
The whole harvest is keyed to the ascension (lifting up) and glorification of the first of the firstfruits. If it hadn’t been for the triumph of the Firstfruit, there would have been no need to even raise up a church. The “One Sent” was the key to the whole plan, and His victory over sin, Satan, and death is what began the countdown to the next event in the plan of God.
If we turn over to 1 Corinthians 15, we find pretty much the same sentiment expressed for us. Here again we see that the Firstfruit is the key to the whole plan, and the only thing that makes it possible for there to be a later harvest of firstfruits.
“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…
Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming”. (1 Cor. 15:3-4, 12-23)
Each of us who has this hope really needs to voice our thanksgiving each day to God for sending the Firstfruit, and for imparting to our minds a bit of understanding of what His life should mean to us
Revelation 14:4 says the firstfruits “are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.” They are the ones who make it their life’s work to know Him, and to know where He is leading them.
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 remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. (John 12:23-24)
Brethren, by the will of the mighty God, the Father of the whole family in heaven and on earth, the Firstfruit of all the earth was harvested after a physical death, and a spiritual glorification through which He would produce much fruit. In fact, every fruit that would follow depended on this one seed that fell to the earth and died (or, if it helps to paint a more vivid picture, what this seed did in “dying” was … it germinated).
“Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.” (Isa. 53:10)
We always read this at the Passover service. “See His seed” … “prolong His days” … sounds like His death was the beginning. It was like a seed germinating and entering a new phase. That new phase of the plan began with the glorification, the lifting up of the Firstfruit, to the Father (John 20:17). His lifting up, His glorification, made it possible to establish a solid spiritual link between He and His followers.
John 7:39, to my way of thinking is a key scripture to our understanding of the link between the wave-sheaf offering and Pentecost. It reads, “But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” Once His glorification took place, the Holy Spirit could be given. The plan and the harvest could go on. This could not occur until Jesus Christ, the forerunner and the firstborn of many brethren had lived a perfect life in a human body, and the one seed planted in the earth had germinated.
So we have this 1st element in our tapestry, the Old Testament wavesheaf being fulfilled by Christ’s resurrection and ascension to the father, being glorified as the Firstfruit. Next week, we’ll talk about another element, focusing more on the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Update: read the other posts in this series
Part Two: The Tapestry of Pentecost: The Holy Spirit
Part Three: The Tapestry of Pentecost: Our Temple Body