Jesus is the firstfruits. Paul said, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). Then again in verse 23 Paul described the resurrection of Christ as “the firstfruits” which would be followed by the resurrection of Christians when Jesus returns. When Jesus is described as “the firstfruits,” it tells us that he is the first and guarantee of what will follow. Since Christ has been raised, Christians will be raised. But there is more. There are riches in the Old Testament roots of this image.
It seems that Paul took his “firstfruits” imagery from the Lord’s design for Feasts in Leviticus 23. These commands in Leviticus 23 are very important for the practice of the Mosaic system and for building the expectation of Jesus in the Old Testament. The feasts prescribed here are the Passover; the Feast of Firstfruits (on the Sunday after Passover); the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost; the Feast of Trumpets (marked the Jewish New Year and associated with judgment); the Day of Atonement; and the Feasts of Booths or Tabernacles at the completion of the Fall harvest. It is easy for us to look back through our Christian spectacles and see how God used these feasts to lead us to Jesus. He is the Passover Lamb, the Firstfruits of God’s harvest which led to the end of the harvest in the Feast of Weeks. Jesus is the beginning, not of a new year, but of a new age. Jesus is the Atonement. Jesus is the one who tabernacle among us and promised to make us dwell with him.
The firstfruits is an often overlooked message in this section. As Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week after the Passover, the wave offering for the Feast of Firstfruits was being offered. Fifty days later the celebration of the ingathering of the harvest at Pentecost was accompanied with another wave offering. What began that Sunday after that Passover was remembered again at the Pentecost when the church first preached the Gospel and 3000 were added to the church. This also helps us to understand how Christ is the Firstruits and Christians are also the “firstfruits” (James 1:18). Christ is the Feast of Firstfruits wave offering and we Christians are those who are gathered in at the end of the harvest.