Ancient Israel was an agricultural society revolving around two harvest periods, one in the spring and one in the fall. The harvest timing was governed by God’s holy days, and vice versa. We understand from the scriptures that the holy days provide a picture of His plan for mankind, but the fact that there are two distinct harvest periods often gets overlooked in favor of a purely linear interpretation.
Most of what I’ve heard talked about where the Feast of Firstfruits (also called Pentecost) is concerned is that it pictures the giving of God’s holy spirit, a historical event. But I believe that the bible very clearly outlines a much greater future fulfillment that brings the spring harvest season to an end—when the saints are resurrected, changed to spirit, and brought before God’s throne for the marriage supper of the Lamb and His Bride.
Historically, both the giving of the law at Mount Sinai and the giving of the holy spirit shortly after Christ’s resurrection occurred on Pentecost. Neither of these is accidental, but instead are two sides of the same coin. Law and grace, old covenant and new covenant. The future and final fulfillment of this day will be when God’s elect—obedient to His laws, redeemed from sin through grace, and having His holy spirit—are brought before His throne as newly-resurrected eternal children of God.
There are so many other aspects of this holy day, it’s impossible to cover them all in one study (and this one is long enough as it is)—the seven weeks, the Year of Jubilee and receiving our inheritance, the kinsman redeemer, the book of Ruth. But in this study we’ll cover some of the reasons why I believe that the feast of Pentecost pictures the resurrection of the saints and the marriage supper of the Lamb.
The Firstfruit Harvest
In order to get a deeper understanding of Pentecost’s ultimate meaning for God’s elect, we have to first start a little bit earlier with an often-overlooked ceremony that happened during the Days of Unleavened Bread. After commanding that they keep the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, God continued His instructions:
“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 [elevate] the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath [during the Days of Unleavened Bread] 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.” (Lev 23:10-14)
Until the wave sheaf was cut and brought to the priest for offering, harvesting could not begin. Once the first of the firstfruits harvest was offered, only then did it become ceremonially legal for the Israelites to begin bringing in the rest of the grain. To my knowledge, this is the only time this ceremony is spoken of in the bible but it’s the only way that we can get to Pentecost, because God’s instruction continues:
“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…The priest shall wave [elevate] them [the meat and drink offerings] 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.” (Lev. 23:15-20)
Pentecost is unique among God’s holy days because it does not fall on a fixed date—it’s the only floating holy day and must be counted based on another of God’s commands. We have no way of getting to Pentecost without the wave sheaf. Similarly, understanding the wave sheaf offering is key to understanding the future events signified by the Feast of Firstfruits.
The Wave Sheaf
What does Leviticus 23 tell us about the wave sheaf offering?
- The offering was given on the day after the Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread
- It was the very first of the firstfruits harvested
- It was offered by the High Priest to God to be accepted on behalf of God’s people
The morning after Christ’s resurrection was Sunday, wave sheaf day—the day after the Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread. When He met Mary in the garden that morning while it was still dark, He wouldn’t let her touch Him because He hadn’t yet ascended to the Father (John 20:17). Later that same day in the evening, He appeared and let them touch Him (John 20:19, John 20:26-27). Like the wave sheaf offering, in the intervening hours He had ascended to the Father and been accepted as a suitable redeeming sacrifice for God’s people.
Jesus Christ was the firstborn from the dead and raised to eternal life—the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (I Cor. 15:20). He became the first being to be changed out of the physical state of humanity into a spirit being. Paul told the Colossians that Christ is the “image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation…the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He might have preeminence” (Col. 1:15-18).
Once He was accepted, He reclaimed His place at God’s right hand as the spiritual High Priest of God’s people. The book of Hebrews has so much to say about Christ’s role that it’s hard to even know where to start, but this passage starts to sum up some of the key points:
“But Christ came as the High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands…not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption…and for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:11-15)
In a nutshell, Christ fulfilled the requirement pictured by the wave sheaf offering. He is our High Priest, His blood was accepted as the price for our sins, and we are eligible to receive eternal life only because He has purchased us out of our transgressions.
If Christ had died but hadn’t been accepted, it would all be for nothing. It is only through His acceptance before the throne of God that the firstfruit harvest can begin, and that God’s plan for mankind can be accomplished. The march toward Pentecost and the acceptance of the wave loaves begins with the wave sheaf.
The Wave Loaves
So then what do we know about the wave loaves?
- They are offered on the fiftieth day—the day after 7 full weeks (“seven sevens”, picturing perfect completeness)
- They are comprised of firstfruit grain harvest, baked with leaven
- They are elevated the exact same way the wave sheaf offering (pictured by Christ) was
- They are holy firstfruits to the Lord, but are intended for the High Priest
Made up of firstfruits, baked with leaven
From the day of the wave sheaf offering, the clock is ticking for the 49 days of the firstfruit harvest. The grain that makes up the wave loaves included grain harvested at different points throughout the seven-week period of firstfruits. Some grain would have been harvested shortly after the wave sheaf offering, and some right before Pentecost. Because of this, it was not homogenous—despite all belonging to the firstfruit harvest, the individual grains grew for different lengths of time, in different fields, were exposed to different amounts of rain, heat, wind, and storms. The parallels here to each of our individual journeys through life are clear.
In preparation for the offering, the grain was ground multiple times, sifted and re-sifted, until it was of the finest quality and all impurities were removed. Then it was leavened and allowed to rise. Leavening only symbolizes sin during the Days of Unleavened Bread; in this case I believe it is simply an agent of change. The dough rises, is punched down, rises again, is kneaded, is shaped. It is in a continuous state of change until the moment it’s baked, when the state it’s in becomes its permanent condition. We, too, continue to grow and change until the moment our physical life ends.
Elevated before God to be accepted
The two equal loaves of firstfruit grain were elevated by the High Priest the same way that the wave sheaf offering had been 50 days earlier. Paul spends quite a bit of time talking about the resurrection of God’s elect, explaining that there’s an order to the firstfruit harvest.
“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep…But each one in his own order: Christ the first fruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming…Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For when the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (I Cor 15:20, 23, 51-52)
He goes into a little more detail about that last part while writing the Thessalonians:
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (I Thes. 4:16-17)
So just as the resurrected Christ had to ascend and come before God’s throne to have His sacrifice accepted, the firstfruits will make a similar journey to be presented to God by our High Priest.
Meant for the High Priest
As the passage in Leviticus 23 states, the loaves are a holy offering to the Lord—they are His firstfruits—but they are intended for the High Priest. But for what purpose?
The New Testament makes it clear over and over that the church is called to be the Bride of Christ. Paul chastises the Corinthians, saying “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (II Cor. 11:2). He likens the church’s submission to Christ and His love and sacrifice for her to marriage, telling them that Christ “loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her…that He might present her to Himself a glorious church” (Eph. 5:22-27).
When He instituted the new Passover ceremony, Christ did so using marriage covenant rituals. We’re told, “Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant… I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom’” (Matthew 26:27-29). His disciples would have recognized the symbolism here of an ancient Hebrew betrothal ceremony.
In saying He would drink of it with them in the kingdom, He alluded to the second cup of wine that the couple shares many months later during the marriage celebrations, affirming the agreement they made at the betrothal ceremony. As we saw in Leviticus, the wave loaves offering was accompanied by a drink offering—representing Christ’s blood making the way possible for us to be accepted, but also the cup of wine shared after the betrothal period ends at the wedding feast.
This idea doesn’t come out of nowhere. It’s important to look at past examples of the holy day to catch glimpses of possible future fulfillment, and there are a number of examples and symbols indicating that the Feast of Firstfruits pictures not only the resurrection and acceptance of God’s firstfruits, but their role as the Bride of Christ at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
The peace offering that is commanded along with the wave loaves on the day of Pentecost pictures a celebration, symbolizing eating a meal with God. In Exodus 24, the law is given to the people on Pentecost and they agree all of God’s words, entering into covenant with Him. The people could only approach the mountain on Pentecost once the trumpets sounded, and they had to wash the clothes as well, like the bright fine linen of the saints. Then Moses and the 70 elders went up on Mount Sinai and ate a meal before the throne of God. I also don’t believe it’s a coincidence that the book of Ruth is read on Pentecost, a story starting at the beginning of the barley (firstfruit) harvest and ending with virtuous and faithful Ruth wedding her kinsman redeemer.
In Revelation, we are told of a group standing before God’s throne, having the Father’s name written on their foreheads. We’re told that “these are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God” (Rev. 14:4-5).
A few chapters later in Revelation, John hears the voice of a great multitude saying:
“‘Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” (Rev. 19:7-9).
Looking forward to a future Feast of Firstfruits
Just as Pentecost doesn’t fall on a specific date every year, we can’t know when Christ is returning (no one knows the hour or the day). The spring harvest could not begin until the first of the firstfruits (Christ) was reaped, offered with a sacrifice, and accepted before God. Once it was deemed acceptable, the firstfruit harvest began in earnest, and continued until the Feast of Firstfruits, fifty days later. At that time, the spring harvest came to a close and the farmer awaited the second, later harvest in the fall.