A New Look
The Mystery of the WAVE SHEAF
OFFERING Revealed at Last!
Much confusion exists concerning the meaning, significance and
symbolism of the "wave sheaf" offering of Leviticus 23. Just what
is the "wave sheaf"? How does it tie in with the sacrifice of Jesus
Christ for our sins? How does it tie in with the "firstfruits from the
dead"? Here is a NEW LOOK at the mysterious "wave sheaf"
offering and its amazing, wonderful symbolism!
William F. Dankenbring
In Leviticus 23 we read, "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 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: 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.
"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" (Lev.23:l0-l2).
What is this "wave sheaf" offering? What does it symbolize and represent?
Notice that it is a sheaf of the "first fruits," and it is offered to God before the Israelites can harvest the spring harvest. God commands, "And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears" -- that is, produce from the new harvest -- "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" (Lev.23:l4).
Spiritual Type and Antitype
In the book of Romans, Paul writes to Christians, saying, "For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the FIRSTFRUITS OF THE SPIRIT, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body" (Rom.8:23).
Christians, those called of God during this lifetime to serve and obey Him, out of every nation, are likened to "firstfruits" of God. We have the "firstfruits of the Spirit" of God as a downpayment, or earnest (Eph.l:4-l4) of our inheritance, as we are the ones who "should be to the praise of his glory, who FIRST trusted in Christ" (v.12).
In writing of Christians in the region of Achaia, Paul says of them, "Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the FIRSTFRUITS of Achaia unto Christ" (Rom.l6:5).
In the book of James we read: "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a KIND OF FIRSTFRUITS of his creation" (James ).
In the book of Romans, Paul addresses our calling -- which is special, and unique, in the sight of God. Of all people on earth, we are the few who have been given the Spirit of God as a begettal, indwelling within us -- a priceless heritage and gift! Therefore "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us" (Rom.5:5). Paul goes on, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. . . But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God DWELL in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (Rom.8:1-9).
How, then, does this relate to the "wave sheaf" offering which was performed the day after the first high holy day of Passover in the spring?
In the book The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, by Alfred Edersheim, we read of the reaping of the wave sheaf, and its presentation. At the end of the 15th of Nisan, says Edersheim, just as it was growing dark,
"a noisy throng followed delegates of the Sanhedrin outside the city and
across the brook Kidron. . . . [They] emerged amidst loud demonstrations,
in a field across Kidron, which had been marked out for the purpose. They
were to be engaged in a service most important to them. . . . The law had
it, 'Ye shall bring a SHEAF [literally the omer] of the FIRSTFRUITS of
your HARVEST unto the priest [who typified, or represented CHRIST];
and he shall wave the omer before Jehovah [God the Father], to be accepted
for you: on the morrow after the Sabbath shall ye wave it.' This Passover-
sheaf, or rather omer, was to be accompanied by a burnt-offering, of a 'he
lamb, without blemish, of the first year,' with its appropriate meat- and
drink- offering, and after it had been brought, but not till then, fresh barley
might be used and sold in the land. Now, this Passover sheaf was reaped
in public the evening before it was offered, and it was to witness this ceremony
that the crowd gathered around 'the elders,' who took care that all was done
according to traditionary ordinance" (p.256-57).
Notice! In the past, many have ASSUMED -- and many STILL assume -- that the "wave sheaf" offering referred to Jesus Christ, who was the offering for our sins upon the stake (II Cor.5:20). But does this make any sense, when we stop to think about it? It was accompanied by the offering of a male lamb without blemish -- which itself typified Christ! It was waved by the high priest before God, to be accepted of the Father -- and the high priest typified Christ, our "high priest" in heaven (Heb.7:24-28; 9:24; 10:10). Furthermore, this "wave sheaf" was offered AFTER the sacrifice of Christ our Passover Lamb (I Cor.5:7-8). The Passover lambs were slain in the afternoon of Nisan 14 -- the precise time when Yeshua the Messiah was slain for us!
Clearly, then, the wave sheaf -- contrary to what many have assumed and believed -- does NOT refer to Christ at all -- but rather is made possible BY the Sacrifice of Christ, which precedes it in time sequence! We have the following sequence of events:
1) the sacrifice of Christ on Nisan 14, late afternoon;
2) the holy day of Passover -- Nisan 15;
3) the next evening, as Nisan 16 began, a sheaf (bundle) of grain is
selected from the
field across the Kidron valley, east of
and cut and bundled;
4) the next morning, Nisan 16, it is prepared and waved before the Lord and accepted of Him as "THE FIRSTFRUITS" of
Do you begin to comprehend? Do you see? The wave sheaf offering is an offering which is a BUNDLE OF SEPARATE BARLEY GRAINS, FROM A NUMBER OF PLANTS, AMOUNTING TO AN "OMER" -- about five pints, or two and one half quarts. This offering followed the offering of Christ, as our Passover lamb, who paid for our sins. It was accompanied by the burnt offering of a lamb -- Christ -- without blemish (Lev.23:12). The wave sheaf itself, then, is NOT CHRIST!
What then is it?
The Wave Sheaf Offering, composed of MANY individual grains, offered together, made possible by the sacrifice of Christ, represents US -- TRUE CHRISTIANS -- those called of God during this age, as His "FIRSTFRUITS"!
It was offered to the Father AFTER the sacrifice of Christ, because there is NO WAY the Father could accept us BEFORE our sins were pardoned, and atoned for, and wiped away and washed away by the blood of Christ! But since Christ became our Saviour, and qualified by living a perfect life, and DIED for us on the stake, this made possible OUR acceptance before the throne of God in Heaven!
WE ARE THAT WAVE SHEAF OFFERING!
What could be plainer?
A Careful Look at The Wave Sheaf
Edersheim explains further in his book The Temple:
"The expression, 'the morrow after the Sabbath,' has sometimes been
misunderstood as implying that the presentation of the so-called 'first
sheaf' was to be always made on the day following the weekly Sabbath
of the Passover-week. This view, adopted by the 'Boethusians' and the
Sadducees in the time of Christ, and by the Karaite Jews and certain
modern interpreters rests on a misinterpretation of the word 'Sabbath.'
As in analogous allusions to other feasts in the same chapter, it means
not the weekly Sabbath, but the day of the festival. The testimony of
Josephus, of Philo, and of Jewish tradition, leaves no room for doubt
that in this instance we are to understand by the 'Sabbath' the 15th of
Nisan, on whatever day of the week it might fall. Already, on the 14th
of Nisan, the spot whence the first sheaf was to be reaped had been marked
out by delegates from the Sanhedrin, by tying together in bundles, while
still standing, the barley that was to be cut down. . . . When the time for
cutting the sheaf had arrived, that is, on the EVENING OF THE 15TH
OF NISAN (even though it were a Sabbath), just as the sun went down,
three men, each with a sickle and basket, formally set to work. . .
". . . they cut down barley to 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 [typifying our carnal, fleshly nature being thrashed from us!]
or stalks, so as not to injure the corn; then 'parched' [heated, typifying our
being tested by hot, fiery trials] on a pan perforated with holes, so that each
grain [each one of us!] might be touched by the fire, and finally exposed to
the wind [the winds of false doctrine, a final test to see if we will remain
faithful to the Truth of God]. 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 [thus
God refines our character to become the noblest possible]. The statement
of a rival authority, however, seems more rational -- that it was only done
till the flour was sufficiently fine, which was ascertained by one of the
'Gizbarim' (treasurers) plunging his hands into it, the sifting process being
continued so long as any of the flour adhered to the hands. Though one ephah,
or ten omers, of barley was cut down [i.e., "called," as it were], only one omer
of flour , or about 5.1 pints of our measure, was offered [i.e., "chosen"] in the
Temple in the second Paschal, or 16th day of Nisan. The rest of the flour
might be redeemed, and used for any purpose.
"The omer of flour was mixed with a 'log,' or very nearly three-fourths of a
pint of OIL [typifying the Holy Spirit], and a handful of frankincense [sweet
spices, typifying praises and prayers to God] put upon it, then waved before
the Lord, and a handful taken out and burned on the altar. The remainder
belonged to the priest. This was what is popularly, though not very correctly,
called 'the presentation of the first or wave-sheaf' on the second day of the
Passover-feast, or the 16th of Nisan" (The Temple, p.257-259).
What a wonderful analogy! What a wonderful comparison! What a wonderful new revelation of divine Truth!
We who are called now are the WAVE SHEAF offering! Those who remain FAITHFUL are the "CHOSEN" grains who will constitute the Wave Sheaf. Others, who begin with us, but fall away from God, and leave the Truth, and forsake the Work, are among those who were initially "selected," and cut down, to be part of the "omer," but who were later "rejected," and did not qualify to be part of the true "first fruits."
Even as the omer is baked, "parched," cooked and sifted, we too must go through trials and tests, and be prepared to qualify to be accepted of our Maker and Creator, our Father and Master. Even as the omer must also be exposed to the "wind," we also must be "tested" to see if we will remain faithful to the truth, or follow after "various winds," "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive" (Eph.4:14).
If you are called now, then YOU are typified by the "wave sheaf" as one of the "grains" which compose it. The "wave sheaf" itself typifies the entire true spiritual body of Christ, the "Church of God," those who have the Spirit of God during this dispensation or age!
The Mystery of the Wave Sheaf
Further truth about the "wave sheaf" is revealed in the fact that the wave sheaf offered on the 16th of Nisan was only the FIRST. Beginning on that day, a wave sheaf of grain was offered every day, through the forty-nine days of the count-down leading up to Pentecost, by the Jews in ancient times. That is, a sheaf of grain was offered every day as the people "counted the omer," offering an omer of grain daily for forty-nine days, until Pentecost!
Pentecost itself was the concluding "eighth day" of the Passover feast, completing the spring holy days and holy day season. Passover typified the DEATH of Christ on the stake, in payment for our sins, giving us great DELIVERANCE from sin and salvation from captivity to spiritual "Egypt." The fifty days between Passover and Pentecost typify the CHURCH AGE, and our struggle to overcome, and to prepare ourselves, to MEET GOD at the second coming of the Messiah -- on Pentecost, the day God came down from Heaven and touched Mount Sinai, and gave His Law to mankind. Even so, very possibly on Pentecost Christ may return from heaven, setting foot on the Mount of Olives (Zech.14:4), and then go forth to smite the nations, bringing Israelitish nations out of captivity, leading them to repentance, regathering them on the Feast of Tishri (Rosh Hashanah, or Trumpets), and leading them back to Israel, where they will become "AT ONE" with Him on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement, or "at-one-ment"), "marrying Israel" at that time, and then celebrating the divine "Honeymoon" at and during the Feast of Tabernacles"!
The seven weeks from Passover till Pentecost, then, symbolize the Church Age, and the period of each of our lives from Baptism (when we begin our spiritual Odyssey, typified by Passover and crossing the Red Sea, leaving Egypt) until the Consummation -- Pentecost, and the Coming of our Lord and Master, our Husband from Heaven! On Pentecost, when He comes, He will "marry" the bride -- the Church -- as in the Hebrew sense of betrothal -- and the final marriage ceremony itself is typified by the Day of Atonement, when we become ONE with God in spirit and truth -- and UNITE with Him, after fasting, repentance, mourning and having all our sins forgiven -- for "Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a GLORIOUS CHURCH, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph.4:25-27). The Church will then be the TRUE "THIRD PERSON" IN THE HEAVENLY "TRINITY"!
As John wrote in Revelation: "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the MARRIAGE of the Lamb is come, and his bride hath MADE HERSELF READY. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine
linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints" (Rev.19:5-8).
The "Seven Weeks" of Preparation
Now notice Leviticus 23:15: "And ye shall count unto you, from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the waving offering: SEVEN SABBATHS [weeks] shall be complete." What does this mean? The Hebrew wording, "sheva' shabbatot t'miymot" is mistranslated as "seven sabbaths shall be complete" in the King James Version. Notice -- the Hebrew does not read "sheva' shabbatot tam" or "sheva' shabbatot tamam," but rather it reads "sheva' shabbatot t'miymot." Both "shabbatot" ("sabbaths") and "t'miymot" ("complete") are in the plural forms, which makes "t'miymot" ("complete") refer directly to "shabbatot" ("sabbaths"). If we believe the "sabbaths" here to be literal weekly sabbaths, then the meaning is totally unintelligible, because nothing exists in Scripture defined as either a "complete sabbath" or an "incomplete sabbath." All "sabbaths" are a contained unit of time and cannot be specified as either complete or incomplete. But, there is such a thing as an incomplete "week."
Contrary to what some church groups are currently teaching, "week" is a valid etymologically correct alternate meaning of the word "shabbat." (See the entry "Shabbat" -- Sabbath -- on page 684 in the volume Compound of Hebrew in Thousand Stem Words: Etymological Dictionary Hebrew-English, by Mayer Schachter-Haham; c1982, Kiryat-Sefer, Ltd., Jerusalem, Israel). "Shabbat" means "week" in the sense that a "week" is a "rest" or a "reduction" of unit time in relation to a New Moon ("kodesh" which means both "new moon" and "month"). In the idiomatic manner in which "kodesh" means both "new moon" as well as "month," the Hebrew word "shabbat" means both "sabbath" and "week." For instance, a valid alternate reading of Isaiah 66:23 is, "from one full month to another, and from one full week to another, shall all flesh come to worship before Me, saith the LORD," because God is to be worshipped every day each month, and every day of the week -- not only on the specific days of the weekly Sabbath and the monthly New Moon!
In Leviticus 23:15, one rendering of "sheva' shabbatot t'miymot" can be "seven weeks each one complete," and expresses nothing specific in regard to the weekly Sabbath. This is the proper rendering since the plural form "t'miymot" ("complete") is used instead of the singular form "tam" ("complete") or "tamam" ("complete"). The "seven sabbaths" is not described as a single unit of complete time as would have been the case if "tam" or "tamam" were used. Rather, the usage of the plural form
"t'miymot" indicates that there are as many "completes" as there are "shabbatot," which forces "shabbatot" into the alternate meaning of "weeks" instead of referring to weekly Sabbaths which are inherently and always uniformly complete units of time with no further designation necessary.
Also, the Hebrew word "tam" can mean "portion" or "cycle" in addition to "complete." In the meaning of "t'miymot" as "portions," "cycles," or "levels," we have the compounded meaning which defines for us what God intended for the Israelites to do with this time in addition to simply counting the omer and harvesting grain. The "sheva' shabbatot t'miymot" meaning the "seven weeks of cycles" or "seven weeks of portions" or "seven weeks of levels" were to be used by the Israelites to prepare to meet God on Mount Sinai when the Day of Pentecost (Shavuot, or Weeks) finally arrived. Each one of the seven weeks corresponded to new levels of overcoming SIN and conquering our human nature!
Overcoming Human Nature
As is well known among Jewish rabbis, God originally offered the Holy Spirit to ancient Israel upon bringing them out from the land of Egyptian slavery. This is clearly indicated within the admonition found in Deuteronomy 10:16, "Circumcize therefore the foreskin of your heart," and by God's conditional Promise found in Deuteronomy 30:6, "And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live" (KJV). It was the rebelliousness of the Israelites dominated by their animal nature which prevented them from cooperating with God in the spiritual circumcision process at that time in their national development. God gave Israel the system of animal sacrifices to instruct them to slay the base animal instincts in human nature rather than exalting the animal nature as expressed by worshipping the golden calf. Rabbi Benjamin Blech states:
"A sacrifice, a qorban, was meant to do what the root of that word
(q.r.v.) implies: qoreiv, to bring us nearer to God in an audiovisual
display of our relationship to the Creator. We humble ourselves and
subdue our animalistic nature. We sacrifice the animal within us"
(Understanding Judaism: The Basics of Deed and Creed, p.30;
c1991, Jason Aronson, Inc.).
Another term, "zebach," meaning "slaughter" is also rendered as "sacrifice" in the KJV. The system of animal sacrifices was instituted to teach the Israelites to "sacrifice" and "slaughter" their animal natures.
The apostle Paul also wrote about our human nature, which must be sacrificed, if we are to inherit the kingdom of God. He declared: "Knowing this, that our old man [human animal nature] is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. . . . Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God" (Rom.6:9-13).
Corresponding to the "seven weeks" or cycles of overcoming, leading from Passover to Pentecost, the apostle Paul lists the Seven Categories of Base Human Nature which we must conquer and subjugate and expunge from our lives. The Galatians were exhibiting the same traits of rebellion as had been exhibited many centuries earlier by the Israelites upon leaving Egypt. Paul listed the seven categories of human nature which fight against the Spirit of God. They are found in Galatians, chapter 5. Notice: "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these":
1. "Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness" -- sexual sins which destructively affect one's spiritual relationship with God and other people.
2. "Idolatry" -- worshipping and obeying demonic gods and wicked evil spirits, following demonic derived doctrines (I Tim.4:1-2).
3. "Witchcraft" -- the use of black magic and other occult perversions, including attempting to control the minds and thoughts of other people and depriving them of the freedom of choice. Many churches which came out of the Worldwide Church of God, like the Worldwide Church of God itself, attempt to practice "mind control" over the members, and threaten any who think independent thoughts, or ask questions indicating their independence of mind, with immediate disfellowshipment -- a wicked scare tactic of the devil, if there ever was one!
4. "Hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife" -- these are related categories of emotional and mental attitudes of violence, and thoughts that lead to violence -- resulting in strife, destruction, and even murder.
John wrote, "He that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes" (I John 2:11). He added, "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him" (I John 3:15).
5. "Seditions, heresies" -- sins against peace and unity among true believers causing division, strife and spiritual chaos -- destroying the flock, and inflicting damage upon the work of God. Sadly, we live in a time when although CHRIST is NOT divided, the remnants of the end-time church of God are bitterly divided, and seditions, heresies, and divisions are paramount! Paul asked the Corinthians, "Is Christ divided?" (I Cor.1:13). The answer? Of course not! But Paul also said to them, "For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren . . . that there are contentions among you" (I Cor.1:11). He added, "For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?" (I Cor.3:3). He later plainly rebuked them, saying, "I hear that there be DIVISIONS among you" (I Cor.11:18). Seditions, treasons, false doctrines, heresies -- these all spring from the fount of heresy, Satan the devil and his evil work of deception and seduction. He is still very active, seeking to devour God's people! (I Pet.5:8-9; James 4:7).
6. "Envyings, murders" -- sins of interfering destructively in the lives of other people; destructively interfering with another person's relationship with God. James warned: "But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work" (James 3:14-16).
7. "Drunkenness, revellings" -- these are sins against a person's own self and his own personal spiritual relationship with God. They are signs of the lack of self-control, self-mastery, and commitment and devotion to serving God. No drunkard or drug addict will inherit the kingdom of God (I Cor.6:9-10).
Notice, now. These seven categories of human nature must be conquered and overcome. This is why the word "shabbatot" is used in Leviticus 23:15 instead of "shavuot" -- the usual word for "weeks" -- because God was emphasizing the importance of "resting" -- "desistance" -- from each of the Seven Categories of Animal Human Nature during the seven weeks culminating in "Pentecost," and God's Own Presence before His People at Mount Sinai, and the Giving of the Torah! Even as ancient Israel had to purify themselves, and prepare to meet with God (Exodus
19:10-15), since no one "unclean" could stand in God's Presence when He arrived on Mount Sinai, even so WE must PREPARE OURSELVES to become the BRIDE of Christ, whom He will marry, at His Second Coming! Therefore, the Seven Weeks or "Seven Stages" prior to Pentecost are also descriptive of the Seven Levels of Spiritual Development each one of us as individuals must go through in preparation to the coming of the Messiah!
This information should help us understand the reasons why the plural for sabbaths ("shabbatot") is used in Leviticus 23:15 instead of the usual word for "weeks" ("shavuot"). This should also help us to understand why "shabbatot" should more accurately be rendered as "weeks" instead of "Sabbaths" in this passage of Scripture.
But Why, Then, Should We Count Fifty Days?
In Leviticus 23:13, the Hebrew word for "count" is "safar." There are several different, but accurate, meanings for "safar." It is only Judaism which provides the internal history necessary to discover which meaning is intended to be understood in the Biblical text. Although "safar" can mean to count up the total in order to arrive at a sum, it can also just as easily and accurately mean to inscribe by making a mark, to enumerate, or to celebrate.
Judaism teaches that the intended meaning of "safar" in Leviticus 23:15 is "to ritually inscribe by celebrating, i.e., to inscribe by ritual celebration." Jewish author and historian Chaim Raphael, in his newly published book entitled Festival Days: A History of Jewish Celebrations (c.1990, Grove Weidenfeld: New York), provides us with the key to rightly understanding the use of the word "safar" in Leviticus 23:15. He informs us that:
"In the Jewish practice, an Omer (sheaf) of the new barley was offered
to the Temple every day after Passover to be 'waved' ceremonially by
the priest. The Omer began to be counted daily from the second day
of Passover for seven weeks, at which point the festival of Shavuot
('weeks') was celebrated. 'Counting the Omer' until the seven weeks
were concluded became a recognizable stretch of Jewish life with its
own traditions . . ." (p.69).
This same author adds:
"The seven-week period from Passover to Shavuot had a ritual in which
a sheaf of grain from the new harvest was offered to the priest every day.
Every offering was COUNTED OFF DAILY until the forty-ninth day,
after which Shavuot was celebrated" (p.71).
It should be clear that this ritual of "counting" was performed EVERY YEAR, as a special adjunct to the Passover celebration, at which the spring harvest BEGAN, and continued for forty nine days, until Pentecost, when the spring harvest was COMPLETED! Since the spring harvest is a TYPE of the "firstfruits" of God's creation -- true converted people of God, from the time of the patriarchs down to true Christians -- the period of time from Passover to Pentecost represents the TIME OF GOD'S SPIRITUAL SPRING HARVEST.
True Christians are they "which have the FIRSTFRUITS of the Spirit" (Rom.8:23). Paul spoke of a certain believer Epaenetus, "who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ" (Rom.16:5). The apostle James wrote, "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of FIRSTFRUITS of his creatures" (James 1:18).
At Christ's coming, He will MARRY the Church, the "firstfruits" (Rev.19:6-9), just as He "married" Israel when He came down to Mount Sinai on that first Pentecost, or Feast of Weeks (Exodus 19-20; 24:9-11). Thus the daily "counting of the omer" is a ritual which REFLECTS THE SPRING HARVEST OF TRUE CHRISTIANS and all the holy men and women of old who will be in the FIRST RESURRECTION, and who will "MARRY" Christ at His coming!
The vast, overwhelming majority of Christians do not even begin to realize or recognize this amazing, wonderful TRUTH! Every day, from Passover to Pentecost, when WE COUNT THE OMER, as we pray to God, reciting, "This is the ___ day of the Omer," and continue on in our prayers, we are LOOKING FORWARD TO and ANTICIPATING JOYFULLY our coming UNION with CHRIST the MESSIAH at His Coming! The daily "counting of the omer," then, beginning with the first omer, continues for forty nine days, or until Pentecost -- and spiritually symbolizes the FIRSTFRUITS OF THE CHURCH OF GOD which have been "harvested" throughout the centuries and millennia leading up to the great day of CHRIST'S COMING, when Christ will COMPLETE THE HARVEST OF FIRSTFRUITS, and then MARRY HIS BRIDE!
What a wonderful truth! There is far more involved in "counting the omer" than most of us have ever realized! In the words of Pogo, "We have met the Omer, and it is US!"
Jewish Sources and Testimony
According to testimony from Jewish sources: "Kabbalists regard these forty-nine days as an ascent from the gates of Egyptian impurity to the purity of Revelation" (The Encyclopedia of Jewish Symbols, by Frank & Tautsch, p.124; c.1992, Jason Aronson, Inc.). Remember that Jesus used the symbol of "wheat" to represent His true disciples, and the term "harvest" to represent "the end of the world (age)" in Matthew 13:29-30 and verse 39. We are therefore additionally informed that this 49-day period is a time of spiritual vulnerability for True Believers based on the physical parallel with the vulnerable conditions of the growing grain prior to the agricultural harvest: "The omer period was a time of great vulnerability, since the people's sustenance depended upon the ripening of the grain. This period also marks the spiritual ripening of the Jewish People as they prepare to receive the Torah at Shavuot" (The Encyclopedia of Jewish Symbols, p.123).
The "spiritual ripening" of True Disciples down through the many centuries is depicted by the offering of the "omer" (wave-sheaf) during each of the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot (Pentecost). However, it is Shavuot which symbolizes the "harvest" at the future Coming of the Messiah.
Just as the proper ripening of the physical grain is dependent "upon a balance of north and south winds" (ibid., p.123), the proper ripening of a True Disciple depends upon a balance of the proper environmental and spiritual influences upon him during his earthly lifetime. At the end of this vulnerable 49-day period, we arrive at Shavuot (Pentecost) which represents and celebrates "God's blessing and protection of the land and its fruit" (p.123) -- the time mentioned in Revelation 20:6: "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection . . . they shall be priests of God and of Messiah, and shall reign with Him a thousand years."
According to the teachings of Jewish antiquity, the various interpretations about the meaning of the omer (wave-sheaf) among most Churches of God (and others) are incorrect because they usually indicate the wave-sheaf as representing the newly resurrected Jesus after His exit from the Tomb. Rather, the wave-sheaf (omer) represents the journey of God's True Disciples on Earth down through time to the Coming of the Messiah which is represented by the Festival of Shavuot.
What, Then, about Jesus?
What, then, about Jesus? He is called a "firstfruit" of many firstfruits and the Firstborn of many brethren (I Corinthians 15:20; Romans 8:29). This needs to be clearly and intelligently understood! Jesus was not a wave-sheaf separate from us or of a different species from us. He was One individual -- not a whole "sheaf" of "grains" of barley within Himself!
However, since He was "the firstborn among many brethren," or the "first of the firstfruits," in the singular, then certainly in typology, Jesus could be represented by one of the grains -- i.e., the first grain, selected in the harvest, as a type. Even as we have to undergo trials and tests, and be parched, and sifted, and exposed to the winds, so He also had to overcome the wiles of Satan (Matt.4:1-10). Even as we are tested, so He was tested by the Father and "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb.4:15), "Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Heb.5:7-9).
He became flesh and blood like us, and "was made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted" (Heb.2:17-18).
The Greek Text of I Corinthians 15:20 reads when literally translated: "Now but Anointed [Messiah] has been raised up out of dead ones, a first-fruit of those having fallen asleep" (The Emphatic Diaglott). The Greek noun is here in the singular form (i.e., "first-fruit"), not in the plural form as the KJV inaccurately renders it. The resurrected Jesus was only one wheat plant among the omer of First-Century A.D. brethren. It takes a cluster (or, "little flock" -- Luke 12:32) of wheat plants to equal one "omer" during each generation of mankind. In Jewish practice, each "omer" (representing many brethren) was offered by waving -- not burned on the altar -- accompanied with a lamb of the first year (representing the Messiah) for burnt offering (to instruct Israel to destroy their lower animalistic human desires), with its meal and drink offerings (See: Unger's Bible Dictionary, article "Festivals"). The Wave-Sheaf -- omer -- was offered with an accompanying symbol of the Messiah, but the Wave-Sheaf did not, itself, represent the Messiah. True Brethren down through history have always been accompanied by the Spirit and Presence of the Messiah!
The Wave Sheaf Offering
Many have been confused, because they have been falsely taught that Christ was the wavesheaf offering. But nowhere does Scripture state this as a fact. It is an assumption, and leads to many problems. For example, if Christ were the wave sheaf offering, WHY is it composed of MANY grains and barley plants?
Let us notice the proper sequence of events, as they are revealed in Leviticus 23:
l) Jesus, as our Passover Lamb, offered Himself as an unblemished sacrifice for our sins, pictured by the Passover, slain in the afternoon of Nisan 14, and partaken of at the Passover dinner at the beginning of Nisan 15. We claim this sacrifice on our behalf, symbolized by our participation in the Passover; this is step one on the path to salvation -- belief in Christ (Lev.23:5). This offering is accepted by God the Father immediately upon its fulfillment -- not several days later!
2) The very next day, being the First Holy Day of the Days of Unleavened Bread, pictures our putting sin out of our lives (symbolized by the removal of leaven); this is step two on the path to salvation -- repentance from dead works and sin (Lev.23:6-7);
3) Then the high priest took the "wave sheaf" which symbolized the FIRSTFRUITS of the harvest to "wave" it before the Lord, to be accepted. This typifies US, as the Christian FIRSTFRUITS OF ZION, who are now "at one with God," through the atoning sacrifice of Christ and our acceptance of His sacrifice on our behalf, and our beginning to obey God by beginning to depart from Egypt, typified by our observance of Passover and Nisan 15. The "wave sheaf" offering means that WE must first BE ACCEPTED, and THEN the rest of the HARVEST can commence! But WE are the FIRSTFRUITS -- the rest of the harvest is the general harvest itself. It cannot be harvested UNTIL we, first, have been accepted!
Now let's understand this, step by step!
1) Christ "offered Himself" when He died on Golgotha. Thus He "presented Himself before God." His offering was really accepted IMMEDIATELY -- NOT THREE DAYS LATER!
2) However, before that Sacrifice can be applied to each one of us, we must first REPENT OF SIN (putting out the leaven); once we BEGIN to do this, God immediately applies the sacrifice of Christ to OUR sins, and accepts His sacrifice in OUR personal behalf.
3) This having been accomplished, now the high priest (typifying Christ) waves the first wave sheaf before the Father, to be accepted by Him -- picturing US, now being offered to the Father as the "FIRSTFRUITS" of the new harvest! Similarly, this "omer" is waved each succeeding day, for forty-nine days, leading up to Pentecost! Thus all who are firstfruits, from the patriarchs such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Samauel and David, and the early apostles, down to those of us in this End-Time generation, are pictured in the succeeding wave sheafs! The wave sheaf, composed of many individual grains of barley, thus typified the many individuals among the FIRSTFRUITS OF THE CHURCH OF GOD, being called and "chosen" during this age, to inherit the Kingdom of God!
Thus the one-two-three step process is completed, and symbolized by Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Wave Sheaf Offering. How amazing! How wonderful! How fulfilling! How humbling!
The Mistake of Some Churches
Notice! It is very clear how the Passover/First Day of Unleavened Bread/Wave Sheaf Offering all tie closely together, every year, as a yearly celebration.
However, if we divorce the wave sheaf from Passover, and place it on Sunday after the weekly Sabbath, as some Churches do, including the Worldwide Church of God, and the Church of God, International, Global Church of God, Philadelphia Church of God, and others, this destroys the close continuity between the Passover, Unleavened Bread, and the Wave Sheaf.
Such a formula actually introduces a varying and changing format which is different every year, depending on what day of the week Passover falls.
Notice! If we believe that the wave sheaf should be offered on the day after the WEEKLY sabbath, as some do, then the fact of the matter is that the only time you would have three days and three nights between Passover, when Jesus died, till Saturday evening/Sunday morning wave sheaf offering, would be only on those years where Passover occurred on a Wednesday!
On all other years, the formula would fail! The so-called three-day and three-night arrangement between Passover and the wave sheaf offering would be destroyed. On some years, where Passover was on the Sunday, the Worldwide Church of God would postpone the wave sheaf offering till the FOLLOWING Sunday, a week later! But in 1994, when Passover was on Saturday, they backed up and called that same Saturday the "Sabbath" from which the wave sheaf was counted -- the Sabbath BEFORE the Feast of Unleavened Bread even started! -- and thus they began counting the very NEXT DAY after Passover! Again, destroying any 3 day relationship which supposedly existed between the death of Christ and the wave sheaf offering!
How ludicrous! Obviously, there is something wrong with such a formula! The real error, however, is simple: The "wave sheaf" does not and never did represent the resurrection of Christ, but rather represents us, the Church, as the "first fruits from the dead" being made "acceptable" to God the Father through Christ our Elder Brother!
"Touch Me Not"
However, many assume that the reason Jesus told Mary not to touch Him, after He had been resurrected, was because He had not yet ascended to God the Father to be "accepted" of Him as our "wave sheaf offering."
But is this even remotely true? Did Jesus somehow mysteriously disappear and ascend to heaven shortly after He was seen by Mary, and return to earth shortly afterwards, before He revealed Himself to all the disciples? Let's understand this!
We know that Jesus was in the grave three days and three nights -- or 72 hours (Matt.12:40). This period of time would begin before 6:00 PM Thursday evening, when He was put into the tomb, just before sunset (John 19:31, 38-42). In Matthew 12:40 the Greek word used for “days” in hemera. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible defines this as “day, that is (literally) the time space between dawn and dark, or the whole 24 hours.” It then goes on to say, “but several days were usually reckoned by the Jews as INCLUSIVE of the parts of both extremes.” Notice also that Jesus said “Three days and three nights,” not “three nights and three days.” Therefore, this period of time would begin before 6 PM, when He was buried, on Thursday, before sunset. This would be the first day of the reckoning
Early the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (Matt.28:1) came to the tomb, when it was still dark (that is, before daybreak). They saw an angel of the Lord roll the stone from the door and then sit upon it (Matt.28:2-7). Immediately after this encounter, they ran and told the disciples (v.8). Peter and the other disciples ran to the tomb, and saw it was empty, but did not see Jesus – He had been resurrected sometime before Sunday daybreak – that is, sometime Saturday night, the third night of the three days and three nights. His body was gone, but all the burial clothes were still there, intact (John 20:2-7). Mary, who had also come back to the tomb with them, stood weeping, thinking the body of Jesus had been stolen (v.13). She turned and saw Jesus standing, but didn't know it was Him. Jesus then said to her, "Mary," and she turned and recognized Him (v.15-16). For a more detailed explanation of this wondrous event, read our article, “How Long Was Jesus Really in the Grave?”
At this point, Jesus said to her, "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and to your Father; and to my God, and your God" (John 20:17).
Later that same day, "as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him" (Matt.28:9). Later, that same night, Jesus appeared to the gathered disciples (John 20:19-21). However, Thomas wasn't there. Eight days later He once again revealed Himself to His disciples, and this time had Thomas touch His wounds, where the nails had pierced His hands, and His side, where the Roman soldier had stabbed Him with a spear (verse 27).
When, then, did Jesus ascend to Heaven?
There is no mention whatever of Jesus going to Heaven, to appear before the Father's Throne, until much later. Paul tells us: "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures: and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James, then of all the apostles. And last of all, he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time" (I Cor.15:3-8).
Luke tells us that after the resurrection, Jesus "shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them FORTY DAYS, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3). Then, after telling them they would receive power to be His witnesses, throughout the earth, we read: "And when he had spoken these things, 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 here 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).
Here is the time of Jesus' ascension! It was FORTY DAYS after His resurrection and first appearance to the disciples!
Why then do some think Jesus ascended at some moment between the time He told Mary not to touch Him, and later that same day when He appeared to all the disciples? The reason is that when the women went to tell the others that angels had told them Jesus had arisen, and was going before them into Galilee, we read: "And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him" (Matt.28:9).
The question is: Why did He tell Mary not to touch Him, and yet the disciples held Him by the feet, worshipping Him? The assumption is that between these two events, very quickly He ascended to Heaven and returned, being accepted of the Father -- so now they could "touch" Him. But is this assumption correct? Does this prove in some strange way that He was the "wave sheaf offering"? Not at all. As we have seen, the wave sheaf offering has nothing to do with any event which always occurred three days after the burial of Christ. It does not typify His being "accepted" of God on a Sunday. Nor does this justify "Easter," or Easter sun-rise services, ostensibly in honor of the resurrection of Christ!
The simple answer is revealed by the Greek expression Jesus used, when He told Mary, "Touch me not." The word for "touch" in this verse is haptomai and literally means, "to attach oneself to, i.e., to touch (in many implied relations." It is the same word Paul used in I Corinthians 7:1, where he wrote, speaking of sexual or sensual holding or hugging, and close bodily contact: "It is good for a [single] man not to touch a woman." Thayer's Greek English Lexicon defines the word as: "1. prop. to fasten to, make adhere to; hence, spec. to fasten fire to a thing, to kindle, set on fire . . . to fasten one's self to, adhere to, cling to." This authority explains Jesus' use of this word in John 20 to Mary as follows: "to be explained thus: Do not handle me to see whether I am still clothed with a body; there is no need of such an examination."
The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Critical, Experimental Commentary enlarges on the subject, saying:
"Not knowing the change which had passed upon Him, she hastens to
express by her actions what words failed to clothe: but she is checked
. . . 'Old familiarities must now give place to new and more awful, yet
sweeter approaches; but for these the time has not come yet.' This seems
the spirit, at least, of these mysterious words . . ."
Adam Clarke adds:
"Verse 17: Touch me not. . . . Cling not to me. APROMAI has this
sense in Job 31:7, where the Septuagint uses it for the Hebrew dabak,
which signifies to cleave, cling, stick, or be glued to. . . . our Lord seems
to have spoken to her to this effect: 'Spend no longer time with me now:
I am not going immediately to heaven -- you will have several opportunities
of seeing me again: but go and tell my disciples, that I am, by and by, to
ascend to my Father and God, who is your Father and God also. Therefore,
let them take courage.'"
There is no evidence whatsoever that Jesus secretly, clandestinely, rose to heaven on that same day, and returned. The whole matter is nothing more than a huge hot air balloon, lofted iinto the air by those who seek to invent some means to justify their beginning the Pentecost count-down on a Sunday! In order to do this, they must stretch and strain the Scriptures, and invent "plausible sounding" theories which introduce confusion into the minds of many who swallow them, hook, line and sinker.
Clearly, Jesus did not ascend to Heaven until FORTY DAYS after His resurrection, and then He did so in the SIGHT of all the disciples, as He arose in a cloud from the Mount of Olives!
Clearly, also, the "wave sheaf offering" has nothing whatever to do with Jesus enigmatic statement to Mary. He was simply telling her not to get overly wrought at seeing Him again, and not to cling to Him -- to let Him go, as it were, and go tell the others that He was alive once again.
The Wave Sheaf Revisited
Now that we know and understand that the "wave sheaf offering," the omer, was offered in ancient Israel on the day after Passover, and then for forty nine days until Pentecost, and that this bundle of grain, parched, heated, and carefully refined and sifted, REFERS TO US -- THE TRUE FIRSTFRUITS of God -- what should this mean to us?
Is this new knowledge something that we should just "take for granted"? Is it something we should just go "ho hum, what-else-is-new" about?
Does this new knowledge EXCITE us, and make us more fervent in our love for God and His great Plan and Purpose? Does it make our spiritual taste buds tingle with anticipation, delight, and joyous ecstasy and wondrous jubilation and make us to thrill with happiness?
We must come first -- after Christ, who was the very "first" of the firstfruits. Then, the rest of the harvest will follow. As Paul wrote so clearly: "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits [or, first of the firstfruits] of them that slept. . . . For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power" (I Cor.15:20-24).
Christ was the first of the firstfruits, and His death and sacrifice makes it possible for us to be the bundle of barley grain harvested together as the firstfruits, for His kingdom. As John wrote, he has "made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth" (Rev.5:10). John added: "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them . . . and they lived and REIGNED with Christ a thousand years. But the REST of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the FIRST resurrection" -- the FIRST HARVEST -- the harvest of FIRSTFRUITS! (Rev.20:4-5). "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the FIRST resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years" (verse 6).
We are the FIRSTFRUITS -- typified by the "wave sheaf offering" -- that makes possible the remainder of the HARVEST! Therefore, should we not give special HEED to our calling? As Paul wrote, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a LIVING SACRIFICE, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Rom.12:1-2).
Let us therefore "give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip" (Heb.2:1). "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation?" (Heb.2:3). "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb.3:12-13).
Paul also wrote, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (I Cor.10:12).
Let us take heed that we do not take these wonderful truths for granted, or let them slip, or lose our grip on them. Let us strive to perfect ourselves, so that we may be worthy to be one of the "chosen" ones, who will comprise the "Firstfruits" of the Harvest to God! Let us strive to overcome our human nature, and put to death our animal urges and lusts of the flesh, and strive to prepare ourselves to meet our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, as His soon coming Return!