‘Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep … but EACH IN HIS OWN TURN : CHRIST, THE FIRST FRUITS; THEN, WHEN HE COMES, THOSE WHO BELONG TO HIM. ( 1 Corinthians 15:20-24) We therefore understand from this passage that all the saints are not resurrected together but the ‘FIRSTFRUITS’ will be resurected before those who will be resurected only at the second coming of Jesus. Paul differentiated between the two groups of saints by putting one before the other, when sequencing the order of their resurrection.
The passage prompts me to ask two key questions – Qn 1: Who are the ‘Firstfruits’ and when will they be resurrected ? (Those who are quick to debunk pre-tribulation Rapture, should honestly try to answer this question.) To start with we need to ask the question : What does the term ‘FIRSTFRUITS’ mean? As the term itself suggests, it is any fruit or grain that was harvested first because it ripened first. The term also implies that there could be more than one harvest during a season because the fruits don’t ripen together. Sometimes trees bloom twice within a year, if conditions are conducive and the fruits are harvested several times, as and when it ripens. Scripturally, the term ‘FIRSTFRUITS’ mean those souls who are ‘harvested’ first and it also implies that there will be souls who will be ‘harvested’ later on. Paul was possibly referring to the ‘FIRSTFRUITS’ when he wrote: ‘the dead in Christ shall rise first. After that we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.’ (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17) It is interesting to note that even in this passage, we find an order of resurrection which places the ‘dead in Christ’ before the ‘alive in Christ’. Does the Bible actually refer to believers as FIRSTFRUITS? ‘Creation waits with eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed … we ourselves who have the FIRSTFRUITS of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons , the redemption of our bodies.’ (Romans 8:19-23) ‘He chose to give us birth through the word of truth that we might be a kind of FIRSTFRUITS of all he created.’ (James 1:18) From these passages we understand that the term ‘FIRSTFRUITS’ include all the saints throughout the entire Church age and not just those who were resurrected with Christ and ascended with him.( Ephesians 4:8) John even called the 144,000 from the tribes of Israel who were to be sealed, as ‘FIRSTFRUITS’ ! ‘Then I looked and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion and with him the 144,000 … They were purchased from among men and offered as FIRSTFRUITS to God and the Lamb.‘ ( Revelation 14:1-4)
Qn 2: Who are ‘those who belong to him’, who will be resurrected when he comes ? ‘And I saw souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshipped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection.’ (Revelation 20:4-6)
In conclusion, the ‘Firstfruits‘ are the Raptured saints and they include the ‘dead in Christ’ who will rise first, the ‘alive in Christ’, who will be ‘caught up’ together with them ( 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17) and also the 144,000 who will be sealed from the twelve tribes of Israel and will be ‘snatched up’ to God during the tribulation. ( Revelation 7:4, 12:5, 14:1-3) The Tribulation saints who will be martyred and are next in turn to be resurrected at the second coming of Jesus can be called the ‘Secondfruits’. However, both are considered blessed to take part in the ‘first resurrection’. ‘The second death has no power over them but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.’ (Revelation 20:6) The rest of the dead will be resurrected only after a thousand years at the ‘second resurrection’. ‘And I saw the dead, great and small standing before the throne and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books … If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.’ (Revelation 20:12-15) When God has chosen us from among men to be to firstfruits unto him, why settle for the second? Amen.