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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

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FIRST-FRUITS.—On the offering of first-fruits as a Jewish institution see Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, vol. ii. p. 10 f.

The word rendered first-fruits (ἀπαρχή) occurs 8 times in the NT, and only in 1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Corinthians 15:23 is it applied directly to our Lord: ‘Now hath Christ been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of them that are asleep’; ‘Christ the first-fruits; then they that are Christ’s.’ It is possible, as some have suggested, that there is a reference in v. 20 to the specific offering of the sheaf of the first ripe corn on the second day of the Passover feast (Leviticus 23:10-11). The coincidence of our Lord’s resurrection on the 16th Nisan—the day on which the sheaf was offered before the Lord—would no doubt suggest the idea of the first-fruits to the Apostle’s mind. But, even apart from this specific reference, the figure of the risen Christ as the first-fruits from the dead is perfectly natural. And there is more here than might be at first supposed. Christ’s resurrection is the pledge of His people’s resurrection, just as the first-fruits were the pledge of the harvest to come. Christ is the first to be raised from the dead, and so stands in the front rank alone, as the first-fruits were plucked before the rest of the produce was ripe; but, just as certainly as the harvest in due time followed the first-fruits, so shall those who sleep in Christ be raised up in due time, and stand in the second rank after Him. But, further, it is clearly implied here, and explicitly taught in other passages, that as is Christ the first-fruits, so shall be the rest of the harvest. There is implied here a community of nature and character between Christ, the first-fruits, and His people. It is only the time of their manifestation that is different. The portion gathered as first-fruits is of the same nature as the rest, and the rest is of the same nature and character and standing as the first-fruits. This is indicated specially in Leviticus 23:21, where it is said that, as death came by man, so it is only by man that the resurrection can come, i.e. resurrection and triumph over death can be man’s possession only when given him by one who is man like himself. Man, therefore, must be of the same nature and character and standing as Christ, the first-fruits. What is suggested here is plainly taught elsewhere (Colossians 3:4, Romans 8:29, 1 John 3:2). Christ, according to these passages, is the first-fruits, the firstborn among many brethren, not only as the pledge that, as He rose, so His people shall rise from the dead, but also that as He is, in nature and character, so shall His people be. That is, perhaps, the most glorious promise of the resurrection first-fruits.

In Romans 8:23 the first-fruits of the Spirit received by Christ’s people are referred to. That they have received the Spirit in some measure and have been sanctified inwardly, is the pledge that they shall receive it in yet greater abundance, that there shall be a final outpouring of the Spirit by which the body of man shall be redeemed even as the spirit has been sanctified—the psychical body being changed into a spiritual. In Romans 11:16; Romans 16:5, 1 Corinthians 16:15, James 1:18, Revelation 14:4 the reference is to the future redemption of mankind, of which those already gathered in are the first-fruits and pledge. Those already redeemed and presented to God as holy are the first-fruits, the pledge of the coming harvest of a holy redeemed humanity.

Literature.—Schürer, HJP [Note: JP History of the Jewish People.] ii. i. 237; Edersheim, The Temple: its Ministry, etc., xix.; Stapfer, Palestine in Time of Christ, bk. ii. ch. 13; Josephs, Judaism as Creed and Life, bk. ii. ch. 5; art. ‘First-Fruits’ in Jew. Encyc. vol. v.

J. Soutar.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'First-Fruits'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​f/first-fruits.html. 1906-1918.
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