Moses' ninth speech, Part 2, First Fruits
Jun 10, 2013
Deuteronomy 26:1 and 2 says,
1 Then it shall be, when you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance, and you possess it and live in it, 2 that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground which you shall bring in from your land that the Lord your God gives you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place where the Lord your God chooses to establish His name.
All of the first fruits offerings were tokens that recognized Yahweh as their King, the One who owned the land, and the One credited with its production. It follows the basic principle that the Owner of the land had the right to partake of the fruit prior to the general harvest when all could partake of it (2 Timothy 2:6).
Secondly, these first fruits were to be taken “to the place where the Lord your God chooses to establish His name.” The wording is indefinite as usual, because such a place would change over the centuries. We see this most clearly in Deuteronomy 16, where God required all men to keep three feasts in the place where God had chosen to establish His name: Passover (16:2), Pentecost (16:11), and Tabernacles (16:15).
The first place where God established His name was in Shiloh (Joshua 18:1; Jeremiah 7:12). When the priesthood in that place corrupted itself in the days of Eli, God removed His name (presence) from Shiloh (Psalm 78:60) and moved it to Jerusalem (Psalm 78:67, 68).
About three centuries later, after the priesthood of Jerusalem had become corrupted, Ezekiel saw the glory of God depart from that place as well. The glory first lifted from the Most Holy Place to the threshold (Ezekiel 10:18), and then it moved outside the city to the top of the Mount of Olives (Ezekiel 11:22, 23).
There it remained until Jesus Christ, in whom was the glory of God, ascended to heaven from the top of the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:12). The glory then returned ten days later to the disciples in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. From that point on, the only lawful place to keep the feasts is within our foreheads (Revelation 22:4). Paul says that we are now the temple of God, both personally (1 Corinthians 3:16) and corporately Ephesians 2:19-22).
Under the New Covenant, then, the first fruits offerings are to be given to the indwelling God. If anyone tries to fulfill this law by going to a holy shrine somewhere in the world, they are unwittingly violating the law, for they are recognizing some place other than where He has chosen to place His name.
The indefinite command allowed God to move the location of His presence from place to place until it found its final resting place in the temple having Jesus Christ as its chief corner stone. In that temple, Paul says in Ephesians 2:20, the apostles and prophets are the foundations, and we are the “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5) in its main structure.
The Bible gives no indication that His presence will ever be removed from us and be returned to the old Jerusalem’s temple mount, as some have proposed. In fact, Jeremiah prophesied that God’s presence would leave Jerusalem as it left Shiloh (Jeremiah 7:14). The glory never returned to Shiloh, for Ichabod was pronounced at that time (1 Samuel 4:21, 22). It means “the glory has departed.”
How, then, shall we offer God the first fruits of harvest under the New Covenant. The book of Hebrews gives us a lengthy list of alterations that were required in the change from the Old Covenant to the New. A full commentary on this book may be studied by reading my book, Hebrews: Immigrating from the Old Covenant to the New. But even the book of Hebrews does not discuss the law of first fruits, although it does point to the “heavenly Jerusalem” (Hebrews 12:22).
We offer the first fruits of the Passover season by presenting Christ as the wave-sheaf of the barley harvest, for He is the first of the first fruits (1 Corinthians 15:20). After Passover comes Pentecost, in which the Church is the second offering of first fruits (James 1:18). This was the offering of wheat (Exodus 34:22). Even as Christ was the first fruits of the first harvest, so also is the Church the first fruits of a greater harvest, which James calls the harvest of “creation.”
Paul confirms this in Romans 8:19-23, telling us that all of creation awaits the manifestation of the sons of God, knowing that it will benefit from this event. The manifestation of the sons of God is the main purpose of the feast of Tabernacles, the third feast in which all men were to present themselves to God in the place where He has established His name.
In other words, the first fruits of Tabernacles, typified by the new wine, is the body of overcomers who will be presented to God at the time of the first resurrection. This will be a limited resurrection, in which only the overcomers are raised from the dead to join those who are alive at the time that the feast of Tabernacles is fulfilled. The rest of the believers will have to wait another thousand years (Revelation 20:6), and they will be raised along with the unbelievers (John 5:28, 29). At that time, the believers will receive their immortal body after undergoing whatever judgment is due (1 Corinthians 3:12-15; Luke 12:47-49).
For a more complete study on the distinction between the two resurrections of Revelation 20, see my book, The Purpose of Resurrection.
Meanwhile, the unbelievers will be convicted of sin and “sold” for their sin-debt to believers who are called to rule over them and teach them the ways of God (Isaiah 26:9). In the end, all of creation will be subjected to Christ, most by means of corrective judgment, some severe, but all done in love with the goal of setting all of creation free into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
For a more complete study on the nature and duration of divine judgment, see my book, The Judgments of the Divine Law.
And so, getting back to our discussion of Deuteronomy 26, we see that the way to offer the first fruits to God under the New Covenant is no longer to give Him barley, wheat, or wine, but rather Christ the first fruits, then the Church which is the first fruits of creation, and finally the sons of God, whose manifestation ultimately will set all of creation free. When “He has put all things in subjection under His feet” (1 Corinthians 15:27), then “God will be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28).
Moses then continues,
3 And you shall go to the priest who is in office at the time, and say to him, “I declare this day to the Lord my God that I have entered the land which the Lord swore to our fathers to give us.”
In the time of Moses, the priest was Aaron, and in later times, it was his sons. But when that priesthood was corrupted, first at Shiloh and later at Jerusalem, a change of priesthood became necessary, as Hebrews 7:12 says. The Levitical priesthood was flawed and mortal, but a new order of priests has arisen, that of Melchizedek, led by Jesus Christ the high priest of that order, who, being immortal, “holds His priesthood permanently” (Hebrews 7:24).
This order of priests is not according to genealogy, as was the order of Levi, for Melchizedek is set forth in Genesis 14 with no record of genealogy (Hebrews 7:6). Certainly, he was not of Levi, for Levi was yet in his loins (Hebrews 7:9, 10). Thus, Jesus Christ, who was of Judah, qualified as the high priest of this other order (Hebrews 7:14) in the same way that David had qualified when God told him in Psalm 110:4, “Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
These two orders of priests had existed side by side since the time of Adam, but this order surfaces first in Genesis 14:18 with the appearance of Melchizedek. Because Moses himself was allowed to enter the Tabernacle into the presence of God, it is probable that he too was of this priestly order, while his brother Aaron was the high priest of Levi.
In David’s day, he was of the Melchizedek order while Ahimelech and Abiathar were the high priests of the Levitical order. For this reason, it was not unlawful for him to eat the bread from the table of showbread (1 Samuel 21:6). This question was raised by Jesus Himself in Matthew 12:3, 4, which put the Pharisees to silence, for they could not understand that the Levitical priesthood in which they trusted might be superseded by a greater order.
It is the same today, for we see in Jerusalem the Jews are preparing cohens, or “priests” of the order of Levi to offer animal sacrifices in a rebuilt temple in the place where God no longer has chosen to place His name. Even some Christians support this effort, apparently believing that the changes made under the New Covenant were only temporary to accommodate “gentiles” for a season. This view makes no sense to me, and I believe no genuine Christian ought to support Christ’s replacement in any way, that is the spirit of antichrist.
Therefore, to fulfill Deuteronomy 26:3, we must present our first fruits offerings “to the priest who is in office at that time.” Jesus Christ is that High Priest under the New Covenant. Any first fruits offering given to a priest of Levi violates the law. By extension, any first fruits offering given to a Christian clergy or denomination whose theology or eschatology supports the reinstatement of the Levitical priesthood is suspect at best.
To fulfill the law, one must follow its instructions. Deuteronomy 26:3 does not command us to take the first fruits offerings to Levitical priests, but only to the one “who is in office at that time.” To fulfill this law, one must know who is in office at the time. Judaism today does not recognize the priest who is actually in office, and so it does not abide by this law.
In 70 A.D. God settled this question by hiring the Romans (Matthew 22:7) to destroy Jerusalem and its temple, making it impossible to sacrifice in the old way any longer. But in the past century the rise of Zionism has given them renewed hope for Judaism and its Levitical viewpoint. It was Jeremiah’s view that at some point in time God will destroy the city permanently (Jeremiah 19:11), in order to shatter men’s misplaced faith in that which God has forsaken.
Thus God will make it clear once and for all that His presence has departed from Jerusalem as Shiloh and that the order of Levi has been replaced by the order of Melchizedek. Animal sacrifices have been replaced by the one true Sacrifice for sin in the Person of Jesus Christ. The Old Covenant has been replaced by a better covenant. The casting out of Hagar, which is Jerusalem (Galatians 4:25), along with her son (Judaism and any who consider Jerusalem to be their "mother") is necessary in order to establish the true inheritors (Isaac). The true inheritors offer their first fruits offerings to the high priest of the Order of Melchizedek.
This is the second part of a series titled "Moses' Ninth Speech." To view all parts, click the link below.