Paul taught that the Old Covenant was only a shadow of the good things to come in Christ (Col. 2:16-17). The writer of Hebrews explained that the earthly Tabernacle was only a shadow of heavenly things (Heb. 8:5), and like Paul, the writer of Hebrews explained that the law was “only a shadow of the good things to come and not the form of those things itself” (Heb. 10:1). They used the Greek word skia, which means a “shadow.” A shadow is an approximate image of something. A shadow lacks much in splendor when compared to the reality of the thing which it images. A shadow lacks details, colors, contrasts, and glory.
In a similar way, the Old Covenant concept of the “first fruits” is a shadow of a greater New Covenant reality. Under the Old Covenant, the “first fruits” referred to that part of the harvest which was either the first to ripen (Neh. 10:35; Num.13:20; Ezek. 44:30) or the best in quality (Num. 15:20; 2 Chron. 31:5). The first fruits were to be given to the Lord to support the priests who served in the Lord’s House (Neh. 10:35-37, 12:44). It should be noted that God considered and intended Israel to be His first and best. “Israel was holy to the Lord, the first of His harvest” (Jer. 2:3).
The Israelites celebrated the Festival of the Harvests three times each year with the first fruits of each harvest from the fields (Exod. 23:16). The three great festivals included: 1) the Feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread (the barley harvest), 2) the Feast of Pentecost (a/k/a Feast of Weeks) (the grain harvest), and 3) the Feast of Ingathering (Booths) (the remainder of fruits) (Lev. 23:1-44). The Israelites were commanded to bring the best of each harvest to the house of the Lord (Exod. 23:19). The New American Standard Bible used the words “choice first fruit of your soil” to describe the expected high quality of the offering to the Lord.
In the New Testament, James applied the term aparche (“first fruits”) to certain Christian converts. James said, “In the exercise of [God’s] will He gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits [aparche] among His creatures” (Jas. 1:18). Please note that it is God’s desire that we would all be categorized as the first fruits. We have free will to set our own priorities. At First Corinthians, Paul mentioned the household of Stephanas. Paul praised them and said “that they are the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to ministry to the saints” (1 Cor. 16:15).
In my previous blogpost, I discussed that the 144,000 mentioned in the Book of Revelation is a numerical and apocalyptic image of mature believers. As seen below, John specifically called them (the 144,000) the “first fruits.” The 144,000 should not be over literalized. Most likely, they will number in the millions. In previous blogs, I have called them the Fraternity of Faithful Believers. In the Book of Revelation, John wrote the following description of the 144,000:
Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him 144,000 who had His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one was able to learn the song except the 144,000 who had been purchased from the earth. These are the ones who had not defiled themselves with women, for they are celibate. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from mankind as the first fruits [aparche] to God and to the Lamb. And no lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.
The 144,000 have the name of their Father (God) written on their foreheads because they are servants or slaves of God. They are described as being completely devoted to the Lord. Figuratively, they follow the Lord “wherever He goes.” Their lifestyle of devotion to the Lord is a song of worship and praise to the Lord. They are not distracted by the pleasures of life. Only the 144,000 (mature believers) learn to sing this song of praise to the Lord. They are a select group purchased from mankind. They are the Overcomers, who will rule with Christ (Rev. 2:7,11,17,26; 3:5,12,21; 21:7). They manifest Christian integrity. They practice an experiential righteousness.
#spiritualmaturity #oldtestamentshadows #the144,000 #firstfruits #overcomers
 “G4639 – skia – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 12 May, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g4639/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “First.” Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, edited by Leland Ryken, et al, InterVarsity Press, 1998.
 “G536 – aparchē – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 12 May, 2022. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g536/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.