First Fruits of the Grave

First Fruits of the Grave

Home Church Service 4/23/2022

Life & Light Community Church began in the early months of 2020. What began as an opportunity for me, my wife and step-kids to continue to worship together, has now evolved into a ministry that has expanded to include close friends, family and those who are simply hungry for the word of God. You can find us on Facebook, so please, feel free to reach out and join us.

When our small group meets for worship, we like to discuss what we are learning, in the moment. Sometimes that happens right after the message and at other times we will address something during the message. These messages are designed to be interactive, discussing what we are learning right after I have addressed each point of the message. You will find the questions at the end of each section. In most formats they will appear in bold. Use these questions as a guide to meditate on the points being discussed. Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and above all, be honest with yourself and the Holy Spirit. After all, He knows any way!

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord for you to be accepted; on the day after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.”

                                                                          Leviticus 23:9–11 (NASB95)

“For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.”

                                                               1 Corinthians 15:16–21 (NASB95)

We have come to the third spring feast, the Feast of First Fruits. This is the final feast that began with Passover, where Israel, still in slavery to Egypt, celebrated the protection of the blood of the lamb, placed on their doorposts and lintels. As Christ followers, we too celebrate the Passover which finds it’s fulfillment in Christ Jesus, and the blood of the Lamb that cleanses us from all sin. Last week we examined the Feast of Unleavened Bread in which Israel observed the night before they left Egypt. In fact, Israel packed so quickly all they had with them for food was unleavened bread. As Christ followers, this feast to finds its fulfillment in Christ Jesus; it symbolizes the removal of our sin and coming out of darkness into the Light of Christ.

The Feast of First Fruits is celebrated while Israel is still wandering, without land and without crops. It was observed in faith that God would lead the people to the land He promised. As Christ followers, we find fulfillment, once again, in Christ Jesus. This feast is a foreshadowing of the resurrection of Christ when He became The First Fruits of the Grave.

Paul reminds the church at Corinth if the dead are not raised, if Christ has not been raised, their faith is worthless, and they remain in their sins. But Christ has become The First Fruits of the Grave, giving them hope beyond this life, for through a man came death and through a man came the resurrection of the dead.

As The First Fruits of the Grave, Christ validates our faith and the forgiveness of sins. He gives us hope for eternal life, having defeated death, which came through a man; through this man, Jesus of Nazareth, comes the resurrection of the dead, even those who had faith in Christ and have already died.

In this message we seek to answer the question, “What does The First Fruits of the Grave represent in the life of a Christ follower?”

The First Fruits of the Grave represents the validation of our faith in Christ, the removal of our sin, and hope beyond this life.

1). The first thing represented by The First Fruits of the Grave is the validation of our faith in Christ and the removal of our sin.

Christ will shatter the lie that our faith is worthless and that we remain in our sin.

The Feast of First Fruits is celebrated with the first harvest of the spring crops. Israel was to gather the “sheaf of the first fruits” of their harvest and give it to the priest. A sheaf is about two quarts and each person who plants, and harvests, is to bring these “first fruits” to the priest. The priest then waves the offering before the LORD so that the people would be accepted. This was to be done on the day after the Sabbath. The feast is to symbolize the consecration of the enter harvest to God and is a pledge of the harvest to come.

So, the literal meaning of “first fruits” refers to the first portion of the harvest which is given to God. First fruits are the first to come in time; a pledge or hope of the greater harvest to follow; and first fruits are specially dedicated to God. It is also important to note that the “first born,” whether human or beast, was also considered as God’s special possession and can be considered a type of first fruit.

By giving God the first fruits, Israel acknowledged that all good things come from God and that everything belongs to God. Giving the first fruits was also a way of expressing trust in God’s provision; just as He provided the first fruits so He would provide the rest of the crops that are needed. Remember, this feast was instituted while Israel was still wandering in the desert, without land and without crops.

All Christ followers are especially dedicated to God in the manner of first fruits. As it is written in James 1:18 (NASB95):

“In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.”

Notice that James says it was God’s will and word of truth that brought us forth – He called us out of darkness and deception. Therefore, we need to be mindful, just as God wanted Israel to be mindful, that we and all we have belongs to God.

There is much going on in and around the church in Corinth; there spiritual and moral problems; there is a temple to Aphrodite, there are temple prostitutes, there are taverns that lead to excess drinking and further moral decay, and then there are just the general questions about faith – one of those concerning the resurrection of the dead. Paul’s stance is that the resurrection of Christ is a literal, documented event in human history. He reminds us of the provision of God, found in Christ Jesus, for the removal of our sin. Our faith is in Christ and His resurrection from the dead.

The resurrection of Christ, in fact, the cross itself, seems like foolishness to most of the world. Most people simply cannot believe in someone or something they cannot see. Many believe our faith to be worthless, without foundation or validation. While our personal experiences may vary, in the end, all Christ followers share the same faith experience – that of being called from darkness, a new birth and life, and the salvation experience of the removal of sin, and eternal life found in Christ.

At His return, not only do we become identified with Christ, His resurrection, necessary for His return, will validate our faith in Him, and validate the removal of our sins, shattering the lie that our faith is worthless. His return will prove, for all time and for all people, that His resurrection was, and is, a literal, documented event in human history. His resurrection and victory over death and the grave has freed us from bondage to sin and given us hope for the future.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

How does knowing that you are part of the first fruits harvest yet to come, impact your faith in Christ?

God’s word of truth is part of the equation that brought you out of darkness and deception – what do you hear God’s word of truth speaking into your life today?

At His return Jesus will shatter the lie that our faith is worthless. What other lies are you believing today that Jesus will shatter at His return?

The First Fruits of the Grave represents the validation of our faith in Christ, the removal of our sin, and hope beyond this life.

2). The second thing represented by The First Fruits of the Grave is the hope for the resurrection of the dead and hope beyond this life.

If our faith in Christ is for this world only, we have no real hope at all.

The resurrection of Jesus is the fulfillment of the Feast of First Fruits, the third in a series of early spring feasts. Jesus is the “sheaf of first fruits of the harvest,” presented before God the Father. In John 20:16-17 (NASB95), after His resurrection, Jesus appears to Mary and has a short conversation before she recognizes Him; after recognizing Jesus, Mary moves to touch Jesus:

“Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’”

Why did Jesus tell Mary to stop clinging to Him? As Israel was bringing in the spring harvest, the harvest of the LORD could not be touched until the first fruits were offered to Him. Jesus had not yet appeared before the Father as the “sheaf of the first fruits.” The first fruits offering could not be touched until it was waved before the Master of the harvest. Yeshua, Jesus, must be waved before the Father, declaring to all humanity there is a resurrection for all who believe.

And in case you are wondering, the Greek word used for clinging can also be translated as “to handle” or “to touch.” So, Jesus could be saying, “Stop touching Me…”

Jesus is “the first fruits” of those to rise from the dead, promising eternal life to those who have come forth cleansed from sin in the blood of the Lamb. Jesus is the fulfillment of the LORD’s promise that there is hope for those who walk in His ways. This speaks directly to the point Paul makes. If Christ has not been raised, then no one can be raised. If there is no resurrection, then we have hoped in Christ for this life alone, making us the most pitied of all people.

But Paul continues – Jesus has been raised from the dead! Our faith is not worthless! We have hope for a future resurrection because Jesus is only the “first fruits of those who are asleep.” We now have hope beyond this life alone because Jesus has defeated death and the grave, meaning that we too will defeat death and the grave at the future resurrection through our faith in Christ!

Paul’s point has profound implications. If our faith in Christ is only for this life only – if we seek Christ to live our best life now – we miss out on the rest of the promises of God. Yes, God provides everything we need, through Christ Jesus, right now. We have shelter, food, clothing at the very moment we need them. He provides protection and guidance in ways we may never know or see. He is in the midst of the spiritual battles we face on a daily basis – in fact, God has provided His very own armor for us to protect ourselves in those daily spiritual battles.

But if that is all we seek, we will miss out on the treasures that are being laid up in heaven for us; we will miss a home with no more fear, anxiety, sorrow or tears. We will miss out on seeing our Savior and heavenly Father face to face. We will miss out on the fellowship of other Christ followers and the endless praise and worship of the King of the universe. And we will miss out on what Paul calls “the blessed hope” in Titus 2:13. Our hope in Christ must include the resurrection of the dead, for without it we have no real hope at all.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

Now that Jesus has ascended to the Father, how are you clinging to Jesus daily?

How has your hope in Jesus been impacted by the promise of a future resurrection of the dead?

The First Fruits of the Grave represents the validation of our faith in Christ, the removal of our sin, and hope beyond this world.

The Feast of First Fruits is about so much more than just the resurrection of Christ. Yes! It is the central event of this feast and even our faith, for without the resurrection our faith is truly worthless. But the fact that the resurrection is a literal, documented event in human history impacts the rest of our lives and faith in profound ways. Hebrews 11:1-2 (NASB95) gives us a very succinct but appropriate definition of faith.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval.”

It goes on to list all those people of faith – what we call the Hall of Faith.

All of those people listed in chapter 11 of Hebrews hoped to see Jesus’ day – but none of them did! All of them had faith in God the Father and followed Him faithfully. Their faith gave them hoped beyond the life they lived. Their faith lifted them above enemies that sought to destroy them; their faith made a way through the Red Sea; their faith brought down the walls of Jericho; their faith challenged God to make a fleece wet while the rest of the ground stayed dry, their faith repeated the warnings and blessings of God, even in the face of death.

In comparison, it seems as if our faith might be lacking a bit. Somehow, we as Christ followers, have lost our way, we have lost the fire of the members of the Hall of Faith and the early church. Somewhere along the way we lost our boldness in proclaiming the King of the universe and His power to change a life. Something has happened to water down our hope in Christ. If all we seek is comfort and ease in this life, we have missed the message of hope beyond this life. It is time for Christ followers to take a hard look at their hope – is it hope for this life only or hope for beyond this life?

Christ came to bring, not only salvation, but abundant life – eternal life, hope for beyond the here and now.

We do all things for the glory of God through Christ our Lord,

Amen and amen.

Next week: 1 John 2:15-17

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