In Matthew24Signs previous blog titled, “3 X’s in a Year,” it was explained how there are 3 harvest periods within the 2 harvest seasons of God’s holy day plan. These 3 periods picture when human beings become members of God’s family.
Each harvest period is specifically designated by a feast within God’s 7 annual festivals, outlined in Leviticus 23.
“Three times you shall keep a feast to Me in the year: You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread . . ., and the Feast of Harvest (Weeks/Pentecost) . . ., and the Feast of Ingathering (Tabernacles) at the end of the year . . .” (Exod.23:14-16).
The 1st of these harvest periods is the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which coincides with the beginning of God’s holy day plan. This feast of 7 days pictures the need for becoming unleavened by putting sin out of one's life. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong explained the meaning of this feast on pg. 16 of his booklet, “Pagan Holidays, God’s Holy Days, Which?”.
“The seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread picture the keeping of the Commandments, which is another way of saying the putting away of sin.”
Paul concurs about the meaning of this feast in I Corinthians 5:8.
“Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
Paul’s writing is proof God’s Church is to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread today. It is not to be kept with the leavened bread of sin, but with the unleavened bread of obedience to God's Law.
Timing of 1st harvest period
To understand how the Feast of Unleavened Bread represents the 1st harvest period in God’s plan of salvation, one must understand a ceremony performed during this feast. It is called the wave sheaf offering.
The details of this ceremony are found in Leviticus 23 between God’s explanation about the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost. Notice God’s instruction for performing this ceremony in verses 9-11.
“And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.”
To fully understand this ceremony requires understanding the elements which make it up.
Time of offering
This ceremony was to be performed once the Israelites entered the land of Canaan. During Israel’s journey in the wilderness, they were unable to cultivate any crops of their own. The Israelites were to offer the wave sheaf to God before eating any produce of the Promised Land. This ceremony marked the start of the spring harvest season (Num. 16:9). Notice this occurred once the Israelites entered into the Promised Land.
The Israelites crossed over the Jordan River into Canaan on the 10 day of the 1st month, according to the Hebrew calendar (Josh. 4:19). Shortly after, they observed the Passover at its appointed time on the 14th day of the 1st month (Lev. 23:5; Josh. 5:10). This historic Passover coincided with the regular weekly Sabbath (Friday sunset to Saturday sunset).
On the next day (Sunday), which was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Lev. 23:6), the Israelites ate the produce of the land of Canaan.
“And they ate of the produce of the land on the day after the Passover, unleavened bread and parched grain, on the very same day. Then the manna ceased on the day after (Monday) they had eaten the produce of the land; and the children of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate the food of the land of Canaan that year” (Josh. 5:11-12).
Before Israel could eat the produce of Canaan, under the leadership of Joshua, the wave sheaf offering was offered first as God had instructed Moses. Had it not been, the Israelites would certainly have incurred the wrath of God for disobedience.
“And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings” (Lev. 23:10, 14).
The Israelites first wave sheaf offering was made on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It occurred then because the last day of this feast (Lev. 23:8) in that historic year occurred on the weekly Sabbath (Saturday). This placed the first day of the week following the weekly Sabbath outside the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Lev. 23:11).
The wave sheaf was to be brought to the high priest, who would then offer it to God on behalf of the Israelites.
The high priest in the sacrificial system represented Jesus Christ. The book of Hebrews speaks of Christ as a resurrected high priest.
“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession” (Heb. 4:14).
“Therefore holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus.” (Heb. 3:1).
In the wave sheaf ceremony, the high priest offering the wave sheaf pictures Jesus Christ presenting the wave sheaf to God the Father.
What does the wave sheaf represent?
Again from his booklet, “Pagan Holidays, God’s Holy Days, Which?,” Mr. Armstrong provides an explanation on meaning of the wave sheaf.
“This pictures the resurrected Christ ascending to heaven to be accepted by His Father as the very first human to be actually born of God - the firstfruit of the first harvest of souls! By comparing John 20:17 with Matthew 28:9, you will see that Christ presented Himself before the Father on the morning after His resurrection the previous evening (I Cor. 15:20, 23; Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:15, 18). This fulfillment of the wave-sheaf offering actually occurred on Sunday, the morrow after the Sabbath during the days of unleavened bread.” pgs. 23-24
But does the wave sheaf represent Christ presenting Himself to the Father or presenting someone else to the Father?
Before examining the Bible to answer this question, keep in mind there are 2 harvest periods during the spring harvest. The first is at the beginning of the harvest season with the offering of the wave sheaf. The second is at the end of the harvest season with the offering of the 2 wave loaves on Pentecost.
The composition of the wave sheaf consists of the very first ripe stalks of grain to be harvested. In Leviticus 23:10, the word “firstfruits” used to describe the wave sheaf is Strong’s# (7225). This word means “the first, in place, time, order or rank.”
God’s Word is clear that Christ was the very first human being to be resurrected from the dead as a member of the God family (I Cor. 15:20). But does Christ compose the totality of the wave sheaf offering?
Paul writes of others who are Christ’s at His 2nd Coming in I Corinthians 15:23.
“But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming”
John identifies these individuals as firstfruits in Revelation 14.
“Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred forty-four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads. These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb” (verses 1, 4).
These 144,000 firstfruits of Revelation 14 are faithful individuals resurrected to eternal life at the sound of the 7th trumpet. Paul wrote about these firstfruits in I Thessalonians 4:16-17.
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
This group of 144,000 is composed of individuals God has called, chosen and remained faithful to His Truth (Rev. 17:14) over the course of 6,000 years of human history, from righteous Abel (Old Testament) through the remaining remnant of protected Philadelphian Christians (New Testament) alive at Christ's return. This group is resurrected/changed from physical matter to eternal life.
“Now this I say brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep (remain dead), but we shall all be changed—in the moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead in Christ will be raised incorruptible, and we (who are alive) shall be changed” (I Cor. 15:50-52).
“And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault (perfect) before the throne of God” (Rev. 14:5).
“Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they are to be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years (Rev. 20:6).
Church of God = 2 wave loaves?
In trying to understand God’s holy day plan, Mr. Armstrong associated those of the 1st resurrection with the 2 wave loaves of Leviticus 23:16-17.
“On the fiftieth day (Pentecost) in Old Testament times, two "wave loaves" (Lev. 23:17, 20) were brought out of the habitations of the congregation as the firstfruits unto the Lord. Just so the New Testament Church was gathered out of this world as the firstfruits of His salvation, in fulfillment of the meaning of the wave loaves.”
Source: Pagan Holidays—or God’s Holy Days—Which?, pg. 26
Notice these wave loaves are to be baked with leaven. Leaven in the Bible, as seen earlier, represents sin.
“Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD. You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the LORD (Lev. 23:16-17).”
Those of the 1st resurrection are raised incorruptible to eternal life (I Cor. 15:51-52).
The leaven found in the 2 wave loaves prevents these loaves from representing those of the 1st resurrection. The individuals of this resurrection are raised to eternal life, without sin (Rev. 14:5; 20:6). Who do the 2 wave loaves represent, since they cannot picture those of the 1st resurrection? Their identity will be revealed in details about Harvest #2.
Identity of the wave sheaf
Knowing that Christ represents the high priest and the 2 wave loaves do not represent those of the 1st resurrection, makes identifying the wave sheaf very simple. The wave sheaf represents those of the 1st resurrection, a group comprised of faithful individuals from both the Old and New Testament (Heb. 11:39-40), whom God called out of this world during their physical lives.
The wave sheaf ceremony pictures Christ, as the resurrected high priest, offering to God the Father, those very first firstfruits of His spiritual harvest. This ceremony does not picture Christ, as high priest, offering Himself to God the Father as the wave sheaf offering. Christ offered Himself to the Father to be accepted as a resurrected high priest.
The wave sheaf is the very first of the firstfruits and signals the start of the spring harvest and thus the first group of individuals to become part of God’s family. Mr. Armstrong was exactly right in stating the Church (OT/NT) would be the very first group of individuals to become part of God’s family.
But it is important to understand God chose not to reveal 2 very critical pieces of information to Mr. Armstrong about those of the 1st resurrection. First, is the number of this group being 144,000 in total. Second, the exact time they would be presented to God the Father. Their resurrection and presentation will be in the spring of the year, not in the fall as ministers in God’s Church teach today.
The wave sheaf is unleavened and composed of multiple stalks of grain, not a single stalk. It pictures the very first group of human beings to become part of God’s spiritual family.
The wave sheaf is the 1st harvest period of people in God’s plan of salvation.