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The First Feast of Firstfruits and the Resurrection

The Feasts of the Lord are discussed in the last four books of the Torah or Pentateuch. Exodus 12 and 13 describe the Passover and Unleavened Bread at the time they were actually occurring in the land of Egypt and the subsequent exodus from Egypt. Exodus 23 describes the three times a year when all males were required to appear or assemble before the Lord God. These three pilgrimages are called the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering (also known as Tabernacles).

The three annual assembly Feasts of the Lord are reiterated in Exodus 34. In this chapter of Exodus, the second Feast of the Lord is called the Feast of Weeks (or Hag Shavuot in Hebrew). It isn’t until Leviticus 23 that all seven Feasts of the Lord are described: Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Shavuot (Feast of Weeks), Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles.

It’s interesting that in Leviticus 23, only in the subheadings of the NKJV are the third and fourth Feasts of the Lord called the Feast of First Fruits and the Feast of Weeks, otherwise, they are not called by name. They are just described as being the first fruits (resit or reshith in Hebrew) of the grain harvest. A sheaf (omer in Hebrew) of barley was to be waved by the priest for the Feast of Firstfruits and two baked loaves of wheat bread, baked with leaven, were to be waved before the Lord during the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot). These are the two Feasts we will be concentrating on in this article and we will call them by their NKJV names of “First Fruits” and the Feast of Weeks or “Shavuot.”

Numbers 28-29 describe the offerings that are to be made during the Feasts of the Lord. The Feasts are all mentioned except for First Fruits. The Feast of Weeks is called “the day of the first fruits.” “Also on the day of the firstfruits, when you bring a new grain offering to the Lord at your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation” (Numbers 28:26). Deuteronomy 16 reviews again the three pilgrimage Feasts of the Lord, Passover and/or Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and Tabernacles.

Each Feast of the Lord commemorated a specific event in God’s dealings with Israel, mostly during the time of the 10th plague of Egypt, the exodus from Egypt, and the 40 years of wandering in the desert. The agricultural aspects of First Fruits and Shavuot weren’t fulfilled until the children of Israel entered the land of Canaan. Jewish rabbis and scholars like to say Shavuot was fulfilled on Sivan 6 when Moses received the 10 Commandments from God on Mount Sinai, but this cannot be proven by scripture. If this were true, I think Moses would have said so in the Torah, or Joshua in his Book.

The first Day of Atonement is described in Leviticus 16. I believe the Feast of Trumpets occurred on the first day of Aaron’s consecration as High Priest as mentioned in Leviticus 8. The Feast of Tabernacles occurred during the forty years of wandering in the wilderness, as the Lord tabernacled with His people and appeared in the Tabernacle of meeting.

In Corinthians 2:17, Paul said the Feast days are a shadow of things to come, but the substance (body) is of Christ. We know Jesus fulfilled the first four spring/early summer Feasts of the Lord during His first advent, so we are confident He will fulfill the last three fall Feasts during His second advent.

THE FEAST OF FIRSTFRUITS

The only time the Feast of First Fruits is mentioned is in Leviticus 23. Some call it the Sheaf Wave Offering or the start of the Counting of the Omer. It is evident that this Feast of the Lord is included within Unleavened Bread. That is why it is not mentioned in any other place of the Torah or Tanakh. Let’s examine this so-called Feast of First Fruits according to Scripture.

When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits 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. 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” (Leviticus 23:10-11,14).

The first thing we notice is that this Feast only begins when the children of Israel enter the land of Canaan. There is some debate about whether the waving of the sheaf of barley should occur immediately upon entry of the land, as that would require using barley from crops that the inhabitants of Canaan had planted, or if the waving of the sheaf must be from crops the Israelites had planted themselves.

The second thing we notice is that there isn’t a date on the Jewish calendar for this Feast. It is the same for Shavuot. These are the only two Feasts of the Lord that aren’t given dates. There must be a reason for this. If the “Sabbath” mentioned in Leviticus 23:11 is the day described in Leviticus 23:7 (a “holy convocation” on the 15th day of the first month), then the day after would be Nisan 16. Every year it would be fixed on the calendar as Nisan 16, and Shavuot would occur 49 days later on Sivan 6. Every year they would come on different days of the week.

However, if the “Sabbath” of verse 11 is the weekly Sabbath after Passover then Firstfruits would always occur on a Sunday with no fixed date on the Jewish calendar. In this interpretation, First Fruits could occur on any date within the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Nisan 15-21. Whatever Sunday First Fruits came on during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, 49 days later Shavuot would occur, also on a Sunday. I believe this is why God didn’t assign First Fruits a fixed date, such as Nisan 16; likewise with Shavuot occurring on Sivan 6.

The children of Israel entered Canaan on the 10th day of Nisan according to Joshua 4:19. Most scholars believe the year was 1406 BC. I concur. See A Chronology of Mankind – 6000 Years of History (rev310.net). According to the Biblical Jewish calendar, Nisan 1 would have occurred one day after the new moon conjunction of Thursday, March 18, 1406 BC (on the Julian calendar), so Nisan 1 would have occurred on Friday, March 19, 1406 BC. The 10th day of Nisan would have occurred on Sunday, March 28, 1406 BC.

According to Joshua 5:10, the Israelites camped in Gilgal and kept the Passover on the 14th day of Nisan (a Thursday). The next day, Friday, Nisan 15 (the first day of Unleavened Bread), “they did eat of the old corn of the land on the morrow after the Passover, unleavened cakes, and parched corn in the selfsame day” (Joshua 5:11). This was probably wheat bread from the last crop that they had acquired when they entered the land.

The next day, Saturday, Nisan 16, the children of Israel ate the last of the manna, as God ceased raining manna from heaven, according to Joshua 5:12. The next day, Sunday, Nisan 17, “they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year” (Joshua 5:12). This was the first fruits of the barley crop that was growing in Canaan that spring. I would imagine this fresh barley tasted pretty good after eating manna for 40 years, no matter how good it was.

This occurred on the first day after the Sabbath of Passover, which according to Leviticus 23:11 is the Feast of First Fruits (IMO). The Bible doesn’t mention if the Israelites waved a sheaf of barley before they ate the fruit of the land of Canaan but if they adhered to a strict interpretation of this passage of scripture then they probably did. In my view, this enhances the view that the Feast of First Fruits occurs on the Sunday after Passover and not Nisan 16, otherwise, they would have waved the sheaf and eaten the bread (and not more manna) on the day before.

This first Feast of First Fruits that occurred in the land of Canaan was the Jewish historical fulfillment of the Feast of First Fruits. The resurrection of Jesus that occurred 1438 years later was the ultimate fulfillment of this Feast of the Lord, for the Lord is Jesus Christ and the Feasts are ultimately about Him. On the same day (on the Jewish calendar and the 7-day calendar) that the Jews were resurrected from death in the wilderness and born as a nation, 1438 years later Jesus Christ was resurrected and became the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:18).

Passover for 1406 BC and 33 AD was on Thursday, Nisan 14. The Feast of First Fruits occurred three days later on Sunday, Nisan 17 for both years. If you notice, the Jewish dates and days of the week are identical for Passover/Unleavened Bread and the Feast of First Fruits (according to the Biblical Jewish calendar). The Julian calendar dates are nearly identical, as they are only “off” by one day. Nisan 14 was on April 1st in 1406 BC and was on April 2nd in 33 AD. Nisan 17 was on April 4th in 1406 BC and was on April 5th in 33 AD.

The same duality can be said of Shavuot as well. Shavuot would have occurred 49 days from Nisan 17 (Firstfruits) on Sunday, Sivan 7 for both years. The Julian dates would have been May 23, 1406 BC, and May 24, 33 AD. It’s interesting that both of these dates occurred on the 1st day of the week, in the 3rd month, and on the 7th day of the month. 1, 3, and 7 are numbers for God and 137 is a very interesting number. See 137 - The Number of God in Scripture and Science (rev310.net) and 137 – The Number of God in Scripture and Science – Part II (rev310.net).

In my last article, “The Wave Offering Before the Lord, we looked at this special act of waving part of the sacrifice to the Lord. The offering was made to the Lord in acknowledgment that everything belonged to Him, but part of the offering was cut off or separated and then waved in the air, and then given to the priests and their families for consumption. This symbolically represented God accepting the meat part and then giving it back to the offeror as blessed and to be used in service to the Lord.

As mentioned before, the three major Feasts of the Lord that all adult Jewish males were required to attend were the Feast of Unleavened Bread (including Passover), Shavuot, and Tabernacles. They were commanded to make the pilgrimage to the Holy place (tabernacle or temple) so they could participate in the festivities and worship of their God and make sacrifices to Him.


These three Feasts of the Lord were centered around the Jews’ agricultural harvest times. The children of Israel were mostly an agricultural society, so harvest time was very important to them. It was something that they could definitely relate to; that is why Jesus told many of his parables in reference to crops and food.


Barley was the main food crop that was harvested during the Feast of First Fruits in the spring. Wheat was the grain crop that was harvested during Pentecost and occurred in the late spring/early summer. Fruit and olives were the main foods that were harvested before Tabernacles began in the fall season.


PASSOVER AND THE FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD


After Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Nisan 10, there were certain Greeks who came to worship at the Feast of Passover. They had heard of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and wished to see Jesus. Jesus answered them and said, 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. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor” (John 12:23-26).


Jesus had to die so that others like him (those who loved the LORD) could live again and have eternal life. He was the seed that was placed in the ground and rose from death with a glorious body made for eternity. His death and subsequent resurrection have produced much grain. The watering of this crop by the Holy Spirit and the word of God has produced a bountiful harvest of souls. Our job, like farmers who grow crops, is merely to plant the seed and make sure it gets plenty of water. God will supply the light necessary for growth.


“For indeed Christ, our Passover Lamb, was sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). Indeed, Jesus was crucified on Nisan 14, the very day of the Feast of Passover. Then for the seven days that followed Passover, the Israelites ate bread without yeast in celebration of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and in fact, went to great lengths to rid their homes of any trace of leaven.


Leven represents sin in the Bible. That is why the Feast of First Fruits cannot occur outside of the seven days of Unleavened Bread. There is to be no representation of sin during this Holy week (eight days counting Passover) when Jesus was crucified and resurrected. If the Feast of First Fruits occurred outside of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, then leaven, symbolic of sin, would be allowed, and thus the first fruits, symbolic of Jesus’ resurrection, would be corrupted.


This Feast of Unleavened Bread symbolizes a promise that the sin of man, represented by the leaven, would be completely taken away. The Lord’s death fulfilled this one as well, for He’s the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). And take it away He did, as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). The ultimate fulfillment of the Feast of Unleavened Bread will be after the Millennium when God creates a new heaven and earth after 7000 years of the original creation. After 7000 years, no trace of sin will be found in heaven or earth.

THE WAVE OFFERING OF THE BARLEY SHEAF


During the early spring harvest of barley, the first task was to bring a small sample or “first fruits” into the house of the Lord. The priest was to wave a sheaf of the barley grain unto the Lord during the day of the Feast of First Fruits, in effect thanking the Lord for his bounty and asking for the Lord’s blessing upon the coming harvest. Also on that day, a male lamb of the first year, without blemish, was to be offered as a burnt offering, along with a grain offering and a drink offering of wine. Of course, the lamb represents Jesus and the grain and wine represent the ” Last Supper” which we commemorate when we observe communion.


The very name “first fruits” implies that there is more to come after the first is given. This tradition of the waving of the first fruit sheave was incorporated into this grain Feast to be a statute forever throughout the Israelites’ generations in all their dwellings. The waving of the barley sheaf was a symbolic representation of Jesus, the firstborn of the dead (Colossians 1:18, Revelation 1:5).


Jesus was the “first fruits” of the first harvest of the dead that was brought into the house of the Lord. But now Christ is risen from the dead and has become the first fruits 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 Corinthians 15:20-23). While the sheaf was being waved by the priest in the Temple at Jerusalem, God was “waving” the resurrected and glorified Jesus in heaven, signifying the bountiful harvest to come at the Rapture.


Jesus also resurrected others from death during this time. “The graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints which slept arose and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many” (Matthew 27: 52-53). I believe these are the Messianic Jews who died during the time of Jesus’ ministry. After the resurrection, when Jesus went back to the Father, He took these believers with him to heaven. They are awaiting for their eternal bodies like all the rest of the “dead in Christ.”


By resurrecting many saints on this Feast of First Fruits, Christ proved that His power over death was not limited to Himself alone. Many ancient Christian writers refer to this miraculous resurrection of the dead. This event, together with more than five hundred eyewitnesses to the risen Christ, as per 1 Corinthians 15:4-6, assisted in the rapid spread of the Christian faith. Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the Feast of First Fruits (of barley).


Although there have been several resurrections of dead people before Jesus, they all died again. Jesus is the only one who has been raised from the dead and is living now in heaven with a resurrected body that is made for eternity. He is the first of his kind in this regard with many more to follow Him in the near future. The next resurrection of the “dead in Christ” (and living believers as well) with a translated eternal body will be at the Rapture.


THE WAVE OFFERING OF THE TWO LOAVES OF WHEAT BREAD


The fourth Feast of the Lord, Shavuot (Feast of Weeks/Feast of Harvest), is celebrated 49 days from the Feast of First Fruits in late spring or early summer. Shavuot, or Pentecost to the Greek-speaking Gentiles, celebrated the end of the barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest. The name Pentecost comes from the word “penta” meaning 50.

“And you shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete. Even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall you number fifty days; and you shall offer a new meat offering unto 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. 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” (Leviticus 23:15-17,19-20).

Since the Feast of First Fruits always occurs on a Sunday, so must Shavuot. It is another day-of-the-week-specific Feast and can occur on different dates in the Hebrew calendar. Originally, Shavuot was celebrated because it was the beginning of the summer harvest. But in A.D. 135, after the final defeat of the Jewish nation (under the leadership of Simon ben Kosiba, popularly known as Bar Kokhba) by Roman legions, the Sanhedrin changed the focus of Shavuot from the summer harvest to the giving of the 10 Commandments and the Law of Moses.

They did this because Shavuot was one of the three Feasts in which all male Jews were required to observe and gather together, and the defeated and dispersed nation of Israel would no longer have any national harvests to celebrate. From that time on, the Jewish leaders decided that Shavuot would occur 50 days after the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Nisan 15) instead of the Feast of First Fruits. So now, in their eyes, Shavuot can come any day of the week and takes place on the 6th day (or within a few days) of the third Hebrew month of Sivan. This dating method for Shavuot is not biblically correct, in my opinion.

I believe the “Day of Pentecost” mentioned in Acts 2 was the very same Feast of the Lord known as Shavuot and not some other minor festival. The Greek word for Pentecost, “Pentekoste,” means the “fiftieth day” after the Passover. It is only used three times in the N.T. This was the same day the Holy Spirit “sat upon” the disciples and empowered them to speak in foreign languages in order to communicate to all the Jews from different countries who spoke in different languages.

After Peter’s speech to the multitudes, the Jews asked Peter what they should do. Peter told them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39). On this fourth Feast of the Lord, Shavuot, the Church of Jesus Christ was born. Keep in mind, that the Feasts of the Lord of Israel are but “a shadow of things to come, but the substance (body) is of Christ” (Colossians 2:17). They are called Feasts of the Lord and not Feasts of the Jews.

In the first few centuries after the death of Christ, the early Church began to distance themselves from the Jews regarding Passover and the Resurrection. The Jewish Passover had no meaning for the Gentile Christians except through reflection on Jesus’ death on the cross, and likewise His resurrection which they now viewed as occurring on the Sunday after His death. In 325 AD, the Council of Nicaea set the dating method of when to observe Easter (resurrection Sunday). Easter, in turn, sets the timing for “Good Friday” (supposedly the day of the week of Christ’s death) and the day of Pentecost, which is the day Christians celebrate the giving of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church.

This act by the Council of Nicaea officially separated Shavuot from Pentecost and they became two different holidays or festivals. Shavuot remained a Feast of the Lord day for the Jews, with no connection to the Church’s birth, and Pentecost became a Christian holiday with no connection to the agricultural Feast of Shavuot. They rarely occur on the same date, as the starting date for counting the 50 days of the Omer usually begins earlier than the countdown from Easter to Pentecost.

Sometimes both dates are wrong according to the Biblical Jewish calendar. For instance, let’s examine the different calendars for the spring convocations for next year, 2024. The three calendars will include the Jewish calculated calendar, the Gregorian calendar that the Church uses, and the Biblical Jewish calendar (which I believe is correct according to Scripture and astronomy).

The spring convocations will include, 1) the date for the observance of the crucifixion of Jesus. The Church calls it Good Friday. Of course, the Jews don’t observe this, so we will look at their date for Nisan 14. 2) the date for the celebration of Resurrection Sunday, which the Church calls Easter. The Jews don’t observe this holiday either, so we will look at their date for the starting of the “counting of the omer,” which is on Nisan 16. 3) The Feast of the Lord known as Shavuot (the festival that ends 50 days from the counting of the omer). The Christians call it Pentecost which occurs 50 days from Easter/Resurrection Sunday.

EVENT – NISAN 14 OR PASSOVER CRUCIFIXION

Calculated Jewish date – Nisan 14/Sunday, April 21, 2024

Church’s date – (Good) Friday, March 29, 2024

Biblical Jewish date – Nisan 14/Sunday, March 24, 2024

EVENT – START OF COUNTING OF THE OMER OR EASTER/RESURRECTION SUNDAY

Calculated Jewish date – Nisan 16/Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Church’s date – Sunday, March 31, 2024

Biblical Jewish date – Nisan 21/Sunday, March 31, 2024

EVENT – JEWISH SHAVOUT OR CHRISTIAN PENTECOST

Calculated Jewish date – Sivan 6/Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Church’s date – Sunday, May 19, 2024

Biblical Jewish date – Sivan 11/Sunday, May 19, 2024

Note: In some years there is a 30-day difference between the Calculated Jewish calendar and the Biblical Jewish calendar, due to intercalary months being added in different years. See The Calculated Jewish Calendar vs. the Biblical Jewish Calendar (rev310.net).

In the next article, we will examine how Jesus fulfilled the fourth Feast of the Lord, Shavuot, aka Pentecost, and the typology of Shavuot (with its wave offering) with the Rapture.

Randy Nettles

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