Turn of Century Writer Saw
Pattern of Firstfruits!
THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS AN EXCERPT FROM "MAN AND THE INCARNATION" BY SAMUEL J ANDREWS, PUBLISHED IN 1905 BY THE KNICKERBOCKER PRESS, LONDON AND NEW YORK
It necessarily follows that if, through unbelief and separation from the Head, the appointed means of perfecting its members are partially wanting, or inoperative, the Holy Spirit can-not do His perfect work. No one can by any efforts of his own supply these means. As the wheat must be ripened by the sun and the rain, so must the Christian be perfected through the spiritual action upon him of the Head and the Spirit.
But if His children are imperfect, or not ready, the Lord is hindered in His action. He cannot come to take them into the fellowship of His glory His coming must be their condemnation and judgment, and must, therefore, be delayed until the due preparation is made. But how can it be made? If it can be made only through the Divinely appointed means, and some of these are wanting, they must be restored that through them a company greater or smaller, may be prepared.
We find here the explanation of the term firstfruits," as a company first prepared for the Lord. As in gathering the harvest, the first step under the Law was the plucking of a few ripe stalks, and presenting them to the Lord in His Temple, before the reaping could begin, so with the spiritual harvest of the Lord
(Lev 23:10-14). He gathers His sheaf of firstfruits and presents it before the Father, and then the harvest can begin
This law as to the firstfruits rests upon the principle that the first in a series of God's gifts to us is to be consecrated to him, we by this act acknowledging Him as the giver of all and sanctifying the residue. The firstfruits of a tree, the first born of the cattle, and the first born son were His, and by the presentation of the first to Him, all that followed were consecrated (Exo 22:29; Num 15:20, Neh 10:35). A commentator says: 'No ordinance appears to have been more distinctly organized than this."
Thus in the harvest at the end, God will have His sheaf of firstfruits - those first spiritually ripened. Of these the Lord speaks, "One shall be taken" the ripened one and "one shall be left" - the unripened (Matt 24:40). Also in the parable of the Ten Virgins we are taught that five being ready are admitted at once and five not ready are shut out, The ready ones are those of whom He speaks elsewhere as "worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass" (Luke 21:36). In the Revelation, the first-fruits are mentioned as those escaping the great tribulation, and in contrast with those who pass through it and wash their defiled robes (Rev 7).
It is wholly in correspondence with the Divine appointments under the old covenant that we are told of "the firstfruits" of the Church (Rev. 14:4). These are the first ripened ones, and as such objects of God's special desire: "My soul desired the first ripe fruit" (Mic 7.1). They are the first gathered, and thus "escape the things which shall come to pass" (Luke 21:36; Rev. 7:4).
The firstfruits having been taken to stand before the Son of Man, the Lord can proceed to gather the harvest; but the yet unripened fruits must be ripened. And this is effected, not by the normal use of the Divine means, but by sore judgments (Isa 1:25). Into details we need not enter. The Apostle Paul tells us of "the fire that shall try, every man is work"; if he has built upon the rock, wood, hay, stubble, though his work shall be burned, the builder shall be saved, yet so as by fire (1 Cor 3:13-15). By "the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning" will God purify His children (1 Cor 3:23; Mal. 3:2; Isa, 4:4). The same truth is set forth in the call to the angel to reap: "Thrust in thy sickle and reap. for the harvest of the earth is ripe" in the margin, 'dried.' It indicates a ripening not normal, but effected through adventitious influences (Rev. 14:15).
The perfecting of the firstfruits is simply the attainment of that spiritual condition that is expected of all in Christ (1 Cor. 1:8; Rev. 14:4-5). There is not the setting up of some new and ideal standard at the end, but the standard set at the first for all, to which it is their duty to attain: and no means of attaining are given but those originally given.
We thus find in the Church just before the Lord's return three classes: (a) those loving the Lord's appearing and waiting for it, but unconscious of their own unpreparedness1 and not realizing the need of any special preparation; (b) those who retain a greater or less measure of faith in Christ as their Savior and of zeal for Him, and who think to set up His Kingdom by their own labors before His return1 but without unity of doctrine or of action; (c) those apostate in spirit, openly or secretly denying the Lord. These classes must be separated, and all in whom faith can be awakened must be prepared.
The first does mentioned is the first to be prepared - the firsifruits of the harvest - and is prepared by the Lord through the operation of the Holy Spirit in the appointed Divine ministries and ordinances, of which they are made to see the necessity. They are thus brought into that condition of spiritual ripeness in which the Lord can gather them.
The Apostles saw very early that till this condition of spirit was attained, the coming of the Lord must be delayed, and there was, therefore, a corresponding change in the tone of their teaching. The looking for death now took the place of the hope of translation and resurrection. How long this spiritual unpreparedness, and consequent delay of the Lord's return, would continue, the Apostles knew not. But St. Paul saw in it the beginning of the apostasy, and that it would find its culmination in the Antichrist.
The second class pass through the great tribulation, and see their structures of wood, hay, stubble, burn, but are themselves saved, "yet so as through fire." These constitute the harvest - "a great Multitude, which no man could number" (Rev. 7:9; 14:15).
The third class, those alienated in spirit from the Lord, are prepared to follow the Antichrist when he shall appear and will join themselves to him and perish with him. It is this class which is presented to us under the symbol of "the vine of the earth" (Rev. 14:18), whose clusters are gathered, and "cast into the great winepress of the wrath of God."
Whilst this process of preparing the Lord's own is going on, Satan is also preparing his own - the Beast and his armies. More and more, the chasm between the followers of Christ and the followers of Satan deepens and widens, and an organized antichristian world-power comes more and more clearly into view (Rev. 13:1). Finally the Antichrist appears the lawless one, the man of sin, he to whom the prince of this world gives his power and great authority, "whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders" (2 Thess. 2:9). Around him gather all the disobedient and unholy. Into his hand it is given "to make war with the saints, and to overcome them"; and "all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the Book of Life of the Lamb" (Rev. 13:7-8). But his reign is short; the Lord appears, and with the breath of His mouth and with the brightness of His coming the Beast and false prophet are taken and cast into the lake of fire, and their armies are slain (Rev. 19:20). Satan is bound and cast into the abyss. The last of the ante-Kingdom judgments is then upon the nations, those who have joined themselves to the Antichrist (Matt. 25:31-32).
We find in this judicial and preparatory stage three successive steps: the gathering of the firsifruits, the harvest, and the vintage.
How long a time will be occupied in this preparation for His Kingdom, first of the firstfruits and then of the harvest, and of His judgments upon the Beast and false prophet, cannot be said, but probably a considerable number of years. Nor can the exact order of events be determined, nor any precise line separating the Lord's easier judicial from His later kingly functions. Perhaps, indeed, the whole Kingdom period may be in a limited sense one of judgment that is' of separating the good from the evil, the final act of separation not taking place till the end (Rev. 20:11).
That the time of preparation for the Kingdom, or the judicial work of the Lord, will be at time of great trial to all the unprepared, the prophetic Scriptures everywhere affirm. This is the time so often mentioned as "the last days," or in a comprehensive term, "the day of the Lord." Scarcely an Old Testament prophet can be found who does not speak of this great and dreadful day, "the day of vengeance," "the day of his fierce anger," "the day of wrath" (Isa. 61:2; 63:4; Joel 1:15; Isa. 13:13; Rev. 6:17).
How terrible is this day is shown in our Lord's words. "There shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be, and except these days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved" (Matt. 24:21-22). This "day of judgment" is set in contrast with "the day of redemption." The time of tribulation is to the faithful in the Church at the end of her earthly history what Gethsemane was to the Lord at the end of His life 6n earth - the most searching proof of man's trust in God, the final trial of faith, a time of deepest darkness, when God seems to have forsaken His children. Out of the depths will they cry: "Oh my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me." Yet will faith prevail, and their Lord will hear their cry, and appear suddenly for their deliverance.