The SECRET of the
Did Jesus Christ ascended to heaven on the first day of the week to
appear before the Father's throne? Was this ascension pictured in
type by the "wave sheaf" which was offered during the Feast of
Unleavened Bread? What does the "wave sheaf" really represent?
Here is overwhelming Biblical evidence proving beyond doubt
the answer to this controversial question!
William F. Dankenbring
Various end-time offshoots of the Worldwide Church of God claim that Jesus Christ was the spiritual antitype of the "wave sheaf" which was offered by the high priest on the "day after the Sabbath" during the feast of Unleavened Bread (Lev.23:10-11, 15-16). They believe that the Jews offered the wave sheaf on the Sunday morning following the weekly Sabbath day. They teach that Christ ascended to heaven that same morning, to be "accepted by the Father," thus fulfilling the wave sheaf symbolism.
But is this scenario true? On the surface, it may seem like compelling evidence that Pentecost should be counted from the day after the weekly Sabbath during Unleaved Bread. However, the truth is that this interpretation actually presents us with several perplexing problems. Let's understand this matter, once and for all!
Confusion and Consternation
First of all, we know that Passover can occur on different days of the week, and represents the day Jesus died for our sins. Since Worldwide Church of God, Global, United, and other offshoots of Worldwide all believe that the wave sheaf was always offered on Sunday, after the weekly Sabbath, consider the following perplexities which can occur: True, whenever Passover (Nisan 14) occurs on Wednesday, there would be "three days" till the resurrection (end of the weekly Sabbath), and the following day when Jesus supposedly ascended to heaven. However, with a Sunday night Passover, the wave sheaf would not be offered until seven days later! With a Monday night Passover, there would be six days between Passover and Sunday! On the other hand, with a Saturday night Passover, the wave sheaf, according to them, would be the very next day -- allowing only one day for Christ to be in the "grave"!
Obviously, there seems to be something seriously wrong with this whole arrangement! Depending on the year, there could be anywhere from only 1 day between Passover and the "Sunday" of the supposed wave sheaf, to as many as 7 days! Therefore the scenario of Wednesday crucifixion, Thursday Passover, three days and nights in the grave (Matt.12:40), and Sunday morning wave sheaf offering would only be accurate when Passover fell on a Wednesday -- that is, occasionally. Every other year the whole crucifixion-resurrection and "ascension" sequence would be thrown out of order!
The problems with this theory were amply demonstrated in a recent year when Nisan 15, the First Day of Unleavened Bread, fell on a Sunday. Since Leviticus 23 says to count from "the sabbath," and they believe the weekly Sabbath is referred to, the question arises -- count from which weekly Sabbath? Since the Feast begins on a Sunday, one might assume they should wait and count from the only weekly Sabbath which falls within the Feast -- in that year, the last day of the Feast! But that would be seven days after Passover! Or, they could count from the weekly Sabbath before the Feast -- that is, the Sabbath the day before the First Day of Unleavened Bread! But in that case, the "omer" count would begin on the first day of the Feast itself!
What disarray! What consternation! What confusion!
Just What Do You Mean, "FIRSTFRUITS"?
However, there is an even more devastating problem with the theory. The proponents of this theory all assume without any "proof" that Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the "wave sheaf offering" of Leviticus 23. They assume that He was the "firstfruits" from the dead, and therefore is comparable to the "firstfruits" of the harvest.
But the fact is, the literal translation of I Corinthians 15:20 is, "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the FIRST FRUIT [singular noun, not plural!] of them that slept." Christ is ONE PERSON -- not two, three, four, 500, 1,000, or 3,000, or 100,000 -- just one person!
Just what is the "wave sheaf" offering, anyway? Notice! The original Hebrew word translated "sheaf" is omer. This word means "a heap" -- or "sheaf" -- a dry measure. Says Gesenius Hebrew Chaldee Lexicon, it means "a measure of dry things, containing the tenth part of an ephah." An omer, according to Unger's Bible Dictionary, held about 5.1 pints.
According to Afred Edersheim, the greatest Jewish-Christian scholar of the 19th century, during Temple times a noisy throng of Jews would converge at a field across the Kidron Valley, at the base of the Mount of Olives, following delegates from the Sanhedrin. They were to reap this Passover-sheaf in public the evening before it was offered. So they gathered on the evening following Nisan 15 (or at the beginning of Nisan 16, after sunset
of the 15th), and cut down the barley which had been previously marked off.
Says Edersheim, three appointed men cut down "the amount of one ephah, or ten omers, or three seahs, which is equal to about three pecks and three pints of our English measure. The ears were brought into the Court of the Temple, and thrashed out with canes or stalks, so as not to injure the corn; then 'parched' on a pan perforated with holes, so that each grain might be touched by the fire, and finally exposed to the wind. The corn thus prepared was ground in a barley-mill, which left the hulls whole. According to some, the flour was always successfully passed through thirteen sieves, each closer than the other" (The Temple: Its Ministry and Services p.204-205).
Edersheim continues, "Though one ephah, or ten omers, of barley was cut down, only one omer of flour, or about 5.1 pints of our measure, was offered in the Temple on the second Paschal, or 16th day of Nisan" (p.205).
Now notice! This is a WHOLE SHEAF of barley -- consisting of 5.1 pints, or a little over two quarts, at least! How many individual "grains" of barley would that be? There are multiple thousands of barley grains in one omer. The "omer" then was not one grain, or the grain from one plant, but many barley plants -- many grains! What does a "grain" symbolize?
"The FIRSTFRUITS of God"
God says, "For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, lke as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least GRAIN fall upon the earth" (Amos 9:9).
The "grain" represents ISRAEL! This "omer" represented the firstfruits of ISRAEL -- that is, the "Israel of God" (Gal.6:16) -- the Church of God!
In the book of James we read, "that we should be a KIND OF FIRSTFRUITS of his creatures" (James 1:18). We in God's Church are those who have "the firstfruits of the Spirit" (Rom.8:23). In Revelation we read: "And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. . . These are they which follow the Lamb, whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the FIRSTFRUITS unto GOD and to the Lamb" (Rev.14:1-4).
Think about it! Christ is NOT the "firstfruits" -- a representation of the "omer" offering! Rather, He is the "firstfruit" -- singular -- from the dead. But through His death and resurrection, WE who have been called of God during this age HAVE BEEN REDEEMED, and now we, the Church of God, constitute the true FIRSTFRUITS being accepted by God the Father!
The "omer" that was waved consisted of 5.1 pints of barley, represents US, for we are GOD'S TRUE FIRSTFRUITS -- PLURAL! The real meaning of the waving of the omer, then, is that it represents the "firstfruits" of God -- the Church -- being accepted, after the Passover lamb -- Christ -- shed His blood for us (I Cor.5:7).
Christ's sacrifice for our sins, therefore, was accepted immediately upon His death -- not three days later, after some "ceremony" in heaven! When Christ died, an earthquake shook the ground, the lintel above the curtain of the Temple broke, the vail itself was ripped in two parts from top to bottom, and the bodies of many dead saints arose from the grave (recently deceased saints), to live out their natural lives (Matt.27:50-54). Such awesome events indidate that Christ's greatest Sacrifice of all time was accepted IMMEDIATELY when He died! But to fulfill prophecy, He had to remain 3 days and 3 nights in the grave, as a "sign" He is the Messiah (Matt.12:40).
To believe that Jesus' sacrifice was not "accepted" till over 12 hours or more after His resurrection, which occurred late in the evening on the weekly Sabbath, before sunset, borders on spiritual lunacy. It makes no sense whatsoever.
"Touch Me Not"
But why, then, did Jesus tell Mary not to "touch" Him, and later that same morning He allowed the women to hold His feet and worship Him?
There is no evidence in all the Bible, or New Testament especially, that says Christ ascended to heaven twice after His resurrection. The Scriptures reveal that He ascended ONCE to heaven, after He had "shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seem of them [the disciples] forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:1-3). After giving final instructions to His disciples, "while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:9-11).
Why, then, did Jesus tell Mary in one place not to "touch" him, and yet allow the women to hold His feet and worship Him a little later? The key to this puzzle is understanding the Greek words for "touch" and "hold" in these separate incidents. In the first instance, Jesus tells Mary, literally, "Do not CLING to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father" (John 20:17, The Modern Language Bible), "Do not cling to me" (Amplified Bible), "Stop holding onto me" (Jewish New Testament), "Don't cling to
me" (The Message Bible).
Obviously, Mary was clinging to Christ. Imagine the scene. She thought He was dead, and had prepared spices to anoint His body. Suddenly she hears a voice behind her, turns around, and it is the Master Himself! Overjoyed, beside herself with delirious happiness, she flings herself into His arms, and holds onto Him tightly, clinging to Him, not letting go. Eventually, He has to tell her, in essence, "Release me," "Let go of me," "Do nor cling to me" any longer.
But a little while later, when He appears to the women in a group, "they held him by the feet, and worshipped him" (Matt.28:9). This was an altogether different thing. They were not clinging to Him, hugging Him, but were bowing on their knees before Him, worshipping Him, and holding His feet. The difference is very clear when we look at the original Greek and the take careful note of the situation which is being described.
Therefore, the idea that Jesus rose up to heaven on Sunday morning, thus fulfilling the "wave sheaf" offering, is totally false. Rather, the true fulfillment of the wave sheaf or "omer" is the Church of God, which is the "firstfruits" of the harvest -- the "firstfruits" of spiritual Israel, the Church of God!