Firstfruits (Le 23)
09 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
10 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest:
11 And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.
12 And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the LORD.
13 And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the LORD for a sweet savour: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin.
14 And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
From the text, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept,” (1Co 15:20) this feast appears to be a celebration of the Resurrection of Yeshua, comparable to the traditional Easter celebration in paganized Christianity, and of our bodily resurrection following Yeshua’s. It is on the surface a celebration of the beginning of the physical harvest of grain that then, evidently, becomes a shadow of God’s harvest of souls.
Incorporated into the ritual is the sacrifice of a perfect male lamb as a burnt offering, which evidently points to Messiah Yeshua. Much like we do grain, God will harvest the souls of the saints as a peculiar treasure to Himself to enjoy, and destroy the rest with fire. (Mt 3:12) Yeshua is the beginning of this harvest, and the saints will follow Him in it. “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” (1Co 15:23)
It is interesting to note that the biblical definition of this feast always places it on a Sunday, the first day of the week. From verse 11 we know that Firstfruits is the day after a sabbath day, but the sabbath in question could be either the first day of Unleavened Bread (in which work is forbidden, so it is a sabbath), or the weekly Sabbath day that occurs during Unleavened Bread. If it is the first day of Unleavened Bread then both Firstfruits and Pentecost might not occur on a Sunday since by definition both of these feasts must occur on the same day of the week. However, from verse 16 we know Pentecost follows a weekly sabbath, so both feasts must occur on Sunday. For further detail here please see, The Truth About Shavuot.
It is also interesting that this particular feast is instrumental in defining the new year, and that its instructions imply that Man’s discernment is included in the timing of God’s heavenly calendar. We are not to eat of any of the spring harvest until this grain offering is presented to God (vs 14), implying that the feast must occur after the spring harvest has begun. From this text, no method of determining the New Year can be correct if it ever, for all time, were to position this feast prior to the spring grain harvest in the vicinity of Jerusalem. This is the key argument against using the vernal equinox to define the first month.
There may be some debate as to whether this feast is a sabbath in which routine labor is forbidden. There is no mention of a sabbath requirement in Lev 23, which seems to address other sabbath requirements explicitly, yet some might view the Numbers 28:26 as a directive here: Also in the day of the firstfruits, when ye bring a new meat offering unto the Lord, after your weeks be out, ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work.
While the text does mention firstfruits, it also mentions the timing of this sabbath as being after your weeks be out, which is evidently a reference to the seven weeks of Pentecost, in which the firstfruits of the summer wheat harvest are offered to God. The fact that the women coming to the tomb of Jesus on the day of Firstfruits with spices they had prepared to anoint His body for burying (Lk 24:1), which they had declined to do the prior day due to it being the sabbath (Lk 25:56), implies they did not feel this was a sabbath feast.
As there is no longer a temple in which to offer sacrifices, or priests to wave sheaves of grain, believers are doing little if anything with Firstfruits, except perhaps looking into the pallid curiosities of rabbinic tradition. We are leaving it to the world to blend the glories of the resurrection with a pagan fertility goddess. Yet Firstfruits is mentioned in this context as if it were also a “convocation,” or a time of assembly, and also a feast. Therefore it seems that the least we can do is come together in Messiah, rest, eat a nice meal, and talk about resurrection, both in the prophetic (He 6:2), how this principle works in our lives on a daily basis (Jn 11:25-26, Php 3:10), and how it functions as a goal in our sanctification. (Php 3:11) As this feast falls within the week-long celebration of Unleavened Bread, the activities of both of these feasts are relevant to and interrelated with each other.