“Now Christ has risen from the dead and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20).
Three important festivals came together at the time of the Passover, therefore also at the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection. All three have great significance for our salvation—significance that we do not want to miss.
Together they make up the season of liberation and salvation, showing how carefully God had planned and prepared every detail of our salvation. He pictured it for us 1500 years beforehand so that nothing would be left to chance.
The first and most recognizable festival was the Passover itself. Just as the blood of the Passover lamb saved Israel from the plague of death which brought about their freedom from slavery in Egypt, so the blood of Christ, our Passover Lamb, saves us from death and frees us from slavery to sin and Satan.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread
The very next day the Feast of Unleavened Bread began. Israelites were required to remove all leaven from their homes for eight days. This feast was symbolic of how Christ has cleansed us from the leaven of sin.
Christ’s death made full atonement for our sins. He has cleansed our lives of all sin and purified us of all unrighteousness. Now as we turn to God in repentance, the leaven of sin is removed from our hearts and lives.
The Festival of the Firstfruits
The third—and perhaps least familiar to us—festival began the day after the Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It was called the Festival of the Firstfruits, celebrating the beginning of the grain harvest.
Barley was the first grain to ripen and was harvested in early spring. Before any of the harvest could be eaten, a sheaf of barley was waved before the altar of the Lord, showing that it was dedicated to Him. This sheaf of barley was brought together with the sacrifice of “a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the Lord,” and an offering of unleavened bread and wine as a drink offering (Leviticus 23:12-13).
The offering of the firstfruits was a thankful recognition that all the harvest is the Lord’s, for He caused the crops to grow and produce fruit. They gave the very first part of the harvest to the Lord in the confidence that God would grant an abundant harvest for them to enjoy after the sacrifice and offering of the firstfruits was made.
Even as Christ was sacrificed on the first day of Passover when the Passover Lamb for the nation was sacrificed—and even as all the leaven of sin was taken away and buried in the tomb with Christ—so it is no coincidence that Jesus rose from the dead on the Festival of the Firstfruits.
What a glorious picture God gave of the meaning and effect of Jesus’ death and resurrection! He Himself was the unblemished Lamb sacrificed for us. He used unleavened bread and wine as the means of giving us His own body and blood which He shed for the remission of our sins, and then He rose from the dead as “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
As the firstfruits, Jesus’ resurrection guarantees a full and abundant harvest of souls who will also be raised from the dead, as Paul says, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Corinthians 15:22-23).
The Festival of the Firstfruits also began the fifty-day countdown to the harvest festival of Pentecost when all the grains were harvested. Even so, we celebrate Christ’s resurrection in joyful anticipation, counting down the days to our final harvest when we will be raised from the dead and gathered into our eternal home.