What is the Feast of Firstfruits (Yom Habikkurim a.k.a. Reishit Katzir)?
The Feast of First Fruits (Hebrew: Yom Habikkurim) is the third of seven annual appointed times which God has commanded His congregation to keep. Firstfruits, unlike most of the other feasts days is not an annual Sabbath (a.k.a. High Sabbath).
The Spring Feasts:
- The Feast of Passover (Pesach – Leviticus 23:5, Numbers 28:16, Exodus 12:18) foreshadowed the shedding of Christ’s blood, the Passover Lamb of God (1 Corinthians 5:7) and the power of that blood to avert God’s wrath at Calvary as it did in Egypt on the 14th of Nissan. The Passover Lamb was a wrath-spearer not a wrath-bearer.
- The Feast of Unleavened Bread (Chag HaMatzot – Leviticus 23:6-8, Numbers 28:17-25, Exodus 23:15) foreshadowed Christ’s condemnation of the sin in our flesh which puffs us up like leaven (Romans 8:3; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8) and the final removal of sin at Calvary (1 Corinthians 5:8).
- The Feast of Firstfruits (HaBikkurim or Reishit Katzir – Leviticus 23:9-14, Numbers 28:26-31) foreshadowed Christ’s resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20-23) as Jesus was resurrected on this very day.
- The Feast of Weeks (Shavu’ot or Pentecost – Leviticus 23:15-22) foreshadows the giving of the Spirit to the church (Acts 2:1-4).
The Fall Feasts:
- The Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah – Leviticus 23:23-25, Numbers 29:1-6) foreshadows the trumpet-announced gathering of Christ’s congregation at the Rapture (Numbers 10:1-8, 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 15:52) and the 2nd Coming (Matthew 24:31; Revelation 11:15).
- The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur – Leviticus 23:26-32, Numbers 29:7-11) foreshadows elements of Christ’s crucifixion (i.e. the day of the world’s atonement) but also the fountain that will be opened to Israel for her future cleansing from sin and uncleanness at Christ’s Second Coming (Zechariah 13:1; 12:10)
- The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot – Leviticus 23:33-43, Numbers 29:12-39) foreshadows Christ’s Millennial reign when He comes back to earth to tabernacle among men (Zechariah 14:16-19, Revelation 21:3).
In addition to the weekly Sabbath observance required by Exodus 20:11, God (in Leviticus 23) revealed seven of His annual appointed times or feast days which He has commanded His congregation to observe. Though two of these seven annual feast days are not designated as annual Sabbaths (i.e. Passover & the Feast of Firstfruits), the other five feast days express themselves as seven annual Sabbaths because two of those five feasts (i.e. Unleavened Bread & Tabernacles) each consist of two annual Sabbath days. Habikkurim, (through its connection to the Feast of Unleavened Bread) is one of the three pilgrimage feasts (the other two being Shavuot and Tabernacles) where all Jewish males are required to appear in Jerusalem for the celebration of those feasts (Exodus 23:14-17; Deuteronomy 16:16).
The feast of Firstfruits is one of two feasts (the other being Pentecost) where the day of the feast is not fixed on the Hebrew calendar and can vary. In fact, though Firstfruits is one of two appointed times which are not designated as annual Sabbath days (Passover being the other), Firstfruits could actually end up falling on a yearly Sabbath day (i.e. the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread) which would make it a Sabbath Habikkurim. Therefore, it is more precise to say that though the feast of FirstFruits is not designated as an annual Sabbath day it can still fall on an annual Sabbath day.
There are four main passages in Scriptures (i.e. Leviticus 23:9-20, Numbers 28:26, Exodus 23:16-19 1 Corinthians 15:20-23) which detail the Lord’s declarations as it pertains to Firstfruits:
(23:9-20) 9 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 10 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: 11 And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. 12 And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the LORD. 13 And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, an offering made by fire unto the LORD for a sweet savour: and the drink offering thereof shall be of wine, the fourth part of an hin. 14 And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: 16 Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD. 17 Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD. 18 And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the LORD, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the LORD. 19 Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings. 20 And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the LORD for the priest.
(28:26) Also in the day of the firstfruits, when ye bring a new meat offering unto the LORD, after your weeks be out, ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work:
(23:16-19) 16 And the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field. 17 Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord GOD. 18 Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread; neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning. 19 The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.
1 Corinthians 15:20-23
(15:20-23) 20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.
Three reasons why Yom Habikkurim must always refer to the first day of the week after the weekly Sabbath that occurs during the 7-day Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Because there are always three Sabbaths (two yearly Sabbaths & one weekly Sabbath) during the 7-day period which is known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Chag HaMatzot), there has historically been some confusion about what the words of Leviticus 23:11,15 mean to convey. Below are some reasons why “the morrow after the Sabbath” must always refer to the first day of the week.
- Because the text in Leviticus 23:11,15 does not say “the morrow after the high sabbath”
- Because the text requires us to count 7 sabbaths within the succeeding 50 days. How do you count seven sabbaths without starting from a Sabbath? Otherwise, the text would be guilty of equivocating on the word Sabbath. This is a logical fallacy. You cannot have the term Sabbath in “morrow after the Sabbath” refer to a high Sabbath while the term Sabbath in “seven sabbaths shall be complete” refer to a weekly sabbath without equivocating on the word Sabbath.
- Because there would be no reason for God not to proclaim the 16th of Nissan as Yom Habikkurim since it would always occur on that date according to the contrarian view. Shavuot would also be fixed and the whole premise of needing to count becomes utterly unnecessary.
Counting the Omer – What does the phrase “morrow after the Sabbath” mean!
Counting the Omer refers to the calculation that is done in order to determine the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot). As stated earlier, the morrow after the Sabbath must refer to the weekly Sabbath and not the yearly Sabbath.
Therefore counting from the Feast of Firstfruits requires us to start with the day right after the weekly Sabbath. It does not refer to the day after the high sabbath because the text requires us to count 7 sabbaths within the succeeding 50 days and there are not 7 annual Sabbaths within that timespan.
We know that Christ rose on the Feast of FirstFruits but was that a Saturday Night or Sunday before Dawn?
(28:1) In the end of the sabbaths, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
(16:1-2) 1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. 2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.
(16:9) Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.
(24:1) Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.
(20:1) The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
If Christ had risen after three days (i.e. the evening of FirstFruits), then that means that it could have been either Saturday or Sunday. After all, both the last six hours of Saturday and the first six hours of Sunday are considered part of that evening. In other words, both of these periods fell within the 17th of Nissan (the first day of the week) during the year that Christ died. The answer to the question seems inconclusive. Yet, Christians all over the world have repurposed Sunday as the “Christian Sabbath” on the tenuous pretext that Sunday was the day when Christ rose from the dead.
Did you know that Easter/Resurrection Sunday is really a commemoration of FirstFruits?
Everytime you go to church on a Sunday morning you are inadvertently commemorating the feast of Firstfruits because the justification for Sunday worship rests upon the idea that Christ was resurrected on the Sunday coinciding with the feast of Firstfruits. Though Christ was resurrected on the first day of the week, it is impossible to know definitively whether He rose on Sunday. The first day of the week (in Jewish parlance) and what Gentiles mean by the term Sunday are not coextensive. The first day of the week begins Saturday evening and ends on Sunday evening. That means that either Saturday or Sunday are candidates.
What is the prophetic significance of FirstFruits?
Firstfruits is prophetic of the resurrection of Christ and of the fact that there will be a coming harvest that consists of all those who believe in the gospel.
Hence, FirstFruits foreshadows the coming resurrection of all beings and restoration of all things. Jesus fulfilled this feast when He rose from the grave on the day after the Sabbath.
Who was the FirstFruits: Christ or the Resurrected Saints (of Matthew 27:52-53) or Both?
Obviously, Christ, according to the Scriptures, is the FirstFruits.
“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the FirstFruits of them that slept.”
-1 Corinthians 15:20
The FirstFruits offering is a single sheaf that is waved before Yahweh. Yet, a sheaf is typically a bundle, a basket of several things presented together for carrying or storing. Historically, the sheaf waived before God would have consisted of more than just one item.
This leads us to an interesting event recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, which tells us that the graves opened up the day Christ died, and many dead saints came out of their graves after His resurrection and appeared unto many in Jerusalem.
(27:52-53) 52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, 53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
Because of Matthew 27:52-53, some perceptive believers have argued that these saints were, with Christ, part of the “FirstFruits” of the resurrection and that Christ took them with Him when He ascended into heaven.
Though I see nothing problematic about this claim, others have been scandalized by the notion that Christ may not have solely been the FirstFruit. The Bible reader should ask his or herself why God would have chosen to include this tidbit in the narrative if it was not ultimately meant to be instructive.
Why Should Gentile Believers Keep The Feast of Firstfruits?
- The Jews were supposed to be a light to the other nations. This implies that their beliefs were supposed to be indicative of the ideal beliefs for all of the world’s inhabitants.
- Because Christ died and rose for everyone and not just the Jews.
- They are the Lord’s feasts not the feast the feasts of Israel
- We are part of the commonwealth of Israel and grafted into a Jewish Olive tree.
- Firstfruits like the observance of the other feasts is eternal (Leviticus 23:14)
Will Believers Observe FirstFruits During Christ’s Millennial Reign?
Yes. In Ezekiel 45:20-25’s commentary on the period of Christ millennial reign, mentioned or implied are four annual appointed times: Passover, Chag HaMatzot (The Feast of Unleavened Bread), HaBikkurim (First fruits) & Sukkot (Tabernacles) which will all continue. In other words, out of the seven annual sabbaths, there is no explicit mention of the following three:
- Yom Teruah
- Yom Kippur
This observation has caused some Bible commentators to speculate that observation of these omitted feast days may cease at the onset of Christ’s millennial reign. This speculation could be an unwarranted argument from silence, or it could very well be an indication that these feasts have served their purpose and are no longer required. However, until believers receive a “cease and desist” edict from God, we are compelled to persist in our obedience to His standing commands to observe all Sabbaths (whether annual or weekly).
How Should Gentile Believers Keep The Feast of Firstfruits?
Everytime you go to church on a Sunday morning you are inadvertently commemorating the feast of Firstfruits because according to those who wrongly venerate the first day of the week, the justification for Sunday worship rests upon the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of Christ depends upon the Feast of firstfruits. If it turns out that Christ rose on Saturday night, then this entire argument becomes void. Beyond the fact that everyday is a good day to worship God, it turns out that there is no special reason why one would want to worship on a Sunday.
Since FirstFruits always falls on a Saturday/Sunday one could continue regular Sunday worship as a commemoration of Christ FirstFruits resurrection. However, the commemoration could also have a historical claim if one chooses to worship on Saturday evening.
Other non-contentious ways to observe FirstFruits might be to:
- Read all the biblical passages pertaining to FirstFruits