“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept”. – 1 Cor 15:20
The most important “But” in the Bible! Christ is risen from the dead, Hallelujah! Brothers and sisters let us rejoice in this wonderful news. Our Lord and Saviour has conquered the grave, death has lost its sting, and in Him we too have a promise of a future resurrection to life (John 5:29, Acts 24:15). All who are in Him will rise from the dead and nothing can separate us from Him (Rom 8:38-39).
“…and become the firstfruits of them that slept”, this verse is a remarkable demonstration of the sovereignty of God. Jesus is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8). God always had a plan in mind for our redemption and throughout Scripture this plan has been meticulously executed. Recall in John’s gospel the number of times we are told that “my time is not yet come” or “his hour had not yet come” – John 2:4,7:6,7:30,8:20 . This is because Jesus knew that His life was to be lived out in complete harmony with the plan for our redemption which has existed since before the foundation of the world.
Firstfruits is the ancient Greek word “aparche”, the word was used for the offering of firstfruits but could also be used to mean an entrance fee. Jesus was the firstfruits of our resurrection in both senses. In the Old Testament, the offering of firstfruits brought one sheaf of grain to represent and anticipate the rest of the harvest (Leviticus 23:9-14). The resurrection of Jesus represents our resurrection because “if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection” (Romans 6:5). “The resurrection of Jesus also anticipates our resurrection because we will be raised with a body like His. Interestingly in Luke 24:39 we are told that Jesus’ resurrected body was “flesh and bone”, not flesh and blood – our new body won’t be driven by blood but by the power of the Holy Spirit. As in the firstfruits offered to God, Israel was assured of God’s blessing on the whole harvest, so by the resurrection of Christ, our resurrection is also ensured” (Trapp). The resurrection of Jesus is also the firstfruits of our resurrection in the sense that He is our “entrance fee” to resurrection, Jesus paid the price for our admission to the resurrection with His own precious blood.
The Feast of Firstfruits was observed on the day after the Sabbath following Passover (Leviticus 23:9-14). Significantly, Jesus rose from the dead on the exact day of the Feast of Firstfruits, the day after the Sabbath following the Passover. The offering at the Feast of Firstfruits was a bloodless grain offering (Leviticus 2). “No atoning sacrifice was necessary, because the Passover lamb had just been sacrificed. This corresponds perfectly with the resurrection of Jesus, because His death ended the need for sacrifice, having provided a perfect and complete atonement” (David Guzik). What a beautifully orchestrated plan God initiated for our salvation!
Some passages of Scripture challenge us, others convict us but here in 1 Cor 15:20 we find one that simply causes us to marvel and rejoice in the majesty of Jesus Christ. He has bought and paid for our salvation in full, He said so Himself on the Cross with His dying words – “It is finished” (John 19:30). God the Father showed his approval of His Son’s sacrifice three days later by resurrecting Him from the dead. Let us make the coming week a time where we consider what Jesus has done for us and won for us and pray that it will cause us to live a life worthy of so great a Saviour.