Christians are the “first fruits” of the “human harvest” that God is bringing up on the earth. Greg discusses how just as in a natural harvest a small portion of the crop is ready early, we as Christians in this world now are ready for heaven before others have realized that heaven has been prepared for them! Contrary to the assumption that when the messiah came all would be transformed immediately, Jesus teaches that there is a process, an unfolding that will occur. We are a part of that process as the first fruits!
This week’s message centered around the idea of Christians being the “first fruits” of the “human harvest” that God is bringing up on the earth, an idea easily grasped by a culture more in touch with where its food comes from than our own. The following are examples of “first fruit” passages: Ex. 23:19 “The choicest of the first fruits…you shall bring into the house of the Lord…”; 2 Thes. 2:13 “…God chose you as the first fruits for salvation…”; James 1:18 “In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.”; Rev. 14:4 “…They (the Church) have been redeemed from humankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb…”
There are at least two New Testament applications of this idea: 1. Christians are the human first fruits and 2. As people of God, we give the first fruits of our earnings to God. Greg focused on the first application in today’s message, though he also mentioned the second. Just as in a natural harvest there is a small portion of the crop that is ready early, we as Christians in this world now are ready for heaven before others have realized that heaven has been prepared for them! God required the first fruit from Israel’s physical crops as an offering demonstrating that Israel trusted God, who gave the first fruit, to also give the full harvest. Israel’s willingness to give the first fruits of its harvest directly parallels our offering to God the first and best of our earnings. Applied more metaphorically (as per the Scriptures listed above) we too, as the first fruit of humanity, are to give ourselves to God, trusting that God plans to harvest the whole crop of human beings. (Every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess…) We will labor with God, but only God gives the growth.
Greg called our attention to this idea to help us understand our place in the story of human history. When we see this clearly, we are free to participate and rejoice in what God is doing in the world! As was pointed out last week, the Creation groans in pain waiting to be liberated from bondage to decay, death, and destruction (Rom. 8:20). The current rule on earth is demonic, but God through Christ has started a revolution that cannot be stopped. Jesus Christ came to reveal God (Jn 1:1, 14:8-10; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3), defeat the kingdom of darkness (Heb. 2:8; I Jn 3:8; Col. 2:14-15), restore all of creation (Rom. 8:20-23; Col. 1:18-20), and save humans, which includes restoring them to their rightful place of responsibility for the earth (Heb. 2:8; Rev. 5:10; 2 Tim. 2:12). Of course, we know that these things were the goal, but why then are they not our reality? God is not yet fully revealed, the kingdom of darkness is not yet fully defeated, many humans seem to not yet be saved and we surely are not yet ruling rightly in the world. What gives?
Jesus responds to this very question with a new teaching: The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed…the Kingdom of God is like a little yeast that causes the whole lump to rise (Mt. 13:33)…recall these stories! Contrary to the assumption that when the messiah came all would be transformed immediately, Jesus teaches that there is a process, an unfolding that will occur. We are a part of that process. We are the first fruits of the harvest that God is making in the world! The “already/not yet” language we use is based on these teachings about the kingdom. That it is more like the persistent growth of a mustard seed than a military conquest, more like the gradual way yeast leavens a loaf of bread than a forceful and hostile rebuke of the kingdom of this world.
Certainly you will remember Greg’s “corny” analogy. His point was that by simply being what God has made us to be, we point the way, we anticipate, and we encourage others to follow. We, the first fruits are, as Efrem Smith says, a preview of heaven! Be a good preview of what the Kingdom of God will be like! Don’t judge those who live in darkness—just live in the light! Don’t judge the sinner—just be holy! Don’t live in fear and try to control others—just be the Kingdom and serve others. As Greg has been repeating, be the change you want to see in the world. Be heaven here and now. As far as your decisions about life go, let this be the rule: if you won’t think it or do it in heaven, don’t think it or do it now!
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