Bible Studies

First Fruits of Redemption's Harvest

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First Fruits of Redemption's Harvest Why the 144,000 Enjoy Special Privileges in the Kingdom of God by Taylor G. Bunch

BLUEPRINT by Muriel Mantell; If we would see the pattern as Go has laid it out, There could be no cynics Or Thomases in doubt. Design becomes apparent To those sustained by faith. Beauty, goodness, truth are real! Evil is the wraith.

In the previous vision we were told that all the world would follow after the beast except those whose names were written in the book of life. In the vision now under consideration the 144,000 are said to "follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth." They are given the great privilege of following Christ throughout all eternity because they chose to follow Him on earth, even in the face of persecution and death. This high honor is evidently not accorded all the redeemed.

Of the character attainments of this special company we read: "These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God." Revelation 14:4,5.

Guile has the meaning of craft, trickery, and duplicity. The person with guile in his mouth is a liar and a deceiver. Those here described are not vicious gossipers. They have gained a complete victory over evil speaking. Truthfulness is an important qualification for membership in the special company of highly honored and privileged saints. Purity of speech is closely related to purity of heart and faith.

The 144,000 therefore have a pure religion, pure hearts, pure minds, and pure characters, and they speak a pure language free from deceit, malicious gossip, filthy stories, and even "foolish talking" and "jesting." which are unbecoming to Christians. See Zephaniah 3:9, 13; Ephesians 5:3,4. In this respect the 144,000 are like Jesus, of whom it is said: "Neither was any deceit in His mouth." Isaiah 53:9. Peter was doubtless referring to this text when He said of Jesus: "Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth." 1Peter 2:22. "After purity, truthfulness was perhaps the most distinctive mark of the followers of Christ, as contrasted with their heathen neighbors," declares a noted commentator. This company are declared to be "without fault," or "without blemish" (R.V.), before the throne of God. That this is the character standard of those who are ready to meet Christ when He returns is evident from many Scriptures. See Ephesians 5:27; 1 Thessalonians 5:23.

The statements "redeemed from the earth" and "redeemed from among men" are believed by many Bible students to indicate translation from the earth without tasting of death, which is, of course, another wounderful privilege. In 1Thessalonians 4:15-17 those "which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord" are contrasted with "the dead in Christ," who are resurrected. Those who remain alive to that great day are "Caught up together with" the resurrected saints "to meet the Lord in the air." We are told that because "he pleased God" Enoch "was translated that he should not see death." Hebrews 11:5. It was the nobility of character which Enoch developed as he "walked with God" for three hundred years that qualified him for translation.

The word "translated" is defined by various dictionaries thus: "To remove or convey to heaven, as a human being, without death:" "to remove or carry to heaven without seeing death;" "in Scripture, to remove or carry to heaven, as a human being, without natural death." The translated reach the heavenly abode without the intervening experience of death. No person who experiences death can be translated. There are only two ways to reach heaven from this earth, according to the Scriptures -- by translation or by resurrection.

In a well-known commentary on the Revelation we read, "They are 'redeemed from among men,' an expression which can be applicable only to those who are translated from among the living. Paul labored, if by any means he might attain to the resurrection from among the dead. (Philippians 3:11.) This is the hope of those who sleep in Jesus-- a resurrection from the dead. A redemption from among men, from among the living, must mean a different thing, and can mean only one thing, and that is translation. Hence the 144,000 are living saints, who will be translated at the second coming of Christ." "So the 144,000 being prepared for the heavenly garner here on earth during the troublous scenes of the last days, being translated to heaven without seeing death, and occupying a pre-eminent position, are in this sense called first fruits unto God and the Lamb." -- Uriah Smith, The Prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation, page 626.

The judgments represented by the seven last plagues being with the close of probation, and it is evident that the 144,000 live through the entire period of trouble, for they "came out of great tribulation." Revelation 7:14. They are the living saints who have experienced the closing scenes of the warfare with the dragon, the beast and the false prophet, and have maintained their loyalty to God through persecution and the threatened sentence of death. They live though the seven last plagues and are translated at Christ's coming.

The 144,000 are declared to be "the first fruits unto God and the Lamb," or "the first to be reaped for God and the Lamb." (Moffatt's translation.) The language indicates that this special company have been "selected" or "gathered" from "among" others for a special purpose, and are the first fruits of the final gospel harvest. The first fruits of any harvest are that part of it which matures first, and are always only a small part of the whole. The first fruits must be distinguished from the "gleanings," which are the last of the harvest and which are also only a small part of the whole. The 144,000 are declared to be "the first fruits," not the "gleanings."

Among the ancient Israelites the first fruits were the choice fruits of the harvest that first come to maturity, and these were carefully selected, marked gathered, and dedicated to a sacred purpose. The 144,000 are therefore selected from among other saints and dedicated for the special service of "God and the Lamb," not only in this world, but also in the world to come. "This seems to imply that the 144,000 do not represent the whole company of the Elect, but a specially sanctified number from among them." (The Cambridge Bible.) "This seems to mean that the 144,000 represent not the whole, but only a portion of the great harvest to come, not only the first installment, but those marked by high spiritual service to God and the Lamb." -- Word Pictures of the New Testament, by A. T. Robertson.

This same though is beautifully expressed in The Expositor's Bible: "The figure is drawn from the well-known offering of 'first fruits' under the Jewish law, in which the first portion of any harvest was dedicated to God, in token that the whole belonged to Him, and was recognized as His. Hence it always implies that something of the same kind will follow it , and in this sense it is often used in the New Testament. If 'the first fruits is holy, so is the lump.' . . . In like manner the mention of the hundred and forty and four thousand as 'first fruits' suggests the thought of something to follow."

The waving of the first-fruits sheaf of the early harvest of the Israelites took place on the sixteenth of Nisan, the day following the Passover Sabbath. The grain was threshed and thoroughly winnowed and the sifted-out chaff burned. The grain was then parched, ground into meal, and anointed with incense. The fragrant meal was waved toward the four points of the compass as the first fruits of the seven weeks of harvest which followed, and which ended with the Feast of Pentecost.

This typical service of the waving of the first-fruits sheaf met its antitype when Jesus, the Lord of the gospel harvest, carefully selected the twelve apostles from among men. They were the best He could find to train for their special mission. Their preparation included a threshing process and a thorough sifting out of all sin and sinners. Judas, the traitor, was sifted out from among them and another put in his place. The heart-searching experience of the Twelve during the trials and crucifixion of Jesus and especially in the upper room, separated from them all chaff. They were then anointed with the Holy Spirit and their lives made fragrant for Christ. They were sealed for a special mission under the early rain of spiritual power.

As the result of this first-fruit selection and anointing, a great gospel harvest was gathered when thousands were converted in a day, including "devout men, out of every nation under heaven." Under Pentecostal power the gospel was preached "to every creature which is under heaven" and an unnumbered harvest of souls were gathered into the garner of the Lord of harvest. Very strikingly the type met its antitype during the first century of the Christian Era as the Spirit-filled church went forth "conquering and to conquer."

Likewise just before the "latter rain" of spiritual power which brings the final gospel harvest to maturity, the first-fruits sheaf must pass through a similar sifting, shaking, and purifying process to qualify this group for their special mission. The 144,000 constitute a selected company who are brought to perfection or maturity through a special experience, and who therefore became "the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb." That they are purified by a shaking or sifting experience is evident from the following texts: Ezekiel 20:35-38; Amos 9:9,10; Revelation 3:10-12, 4-16. The Laodicean message produces a shaking which is followed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit "on all flesh" and the gathering in of the great harvest.

The 144,000 are said to be "without fault" or "without blemish," which is the language used in describing all first fruits. They must be the "first" in both time and quality, the "best" and "chief" fruits of the field or vineyard. The first fruits have been defined as "the fruits or product first matured and collected in any season." "Matured" is from the Latin maturus, meaning "ripe, of full age, perfected by time or natural growth, brought to perfection, completed, prepared, ready." The 144,000 are the first to be brought to perfection of character in the gospel harvest of the last generation. They reach mature spiritual growth and are sealed and given the Holy Spirit in "latter rain" showers, the purpose of which is to call the innumerable company of God's people out of spiritual Babylon before God's wrath is pouredout upon the rejectors of His grace in the seven last plagues.

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