1 Corinthians 15:20
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.
We might take occasion hence to consider the great fact — Christ is risen, the symbolical figure by which that fact might be illustrated — the first-fruits — and the favour which follows — the resurrection of the pious dead. Refer to Leviticus 23:10, etc. The first-fruits were a typical representation of Christ presented to God after His resurrection.
1. The first-fruits were of the same nature as the after fruits. Let this remind us that Christ is of the same nature as His people. He took a real human nature, that in that nature He might sanctify us, as the harvest was sanctified by offering the first-fruits to God. "For both He that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one; for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren." Had Christ died and risen in a different nature from ours, it would not have been conquering death for us. We could have derived no benefit or consolation from it. "The Man Christ"; "that Man whom He hath ordained"; "a Man approved of God"; "in all things made like unto His brethren." He had real flesh. He felt hunger, thirst, and weariness, which a mere spirit could not; and He had a real human soul, which could rejoice, grieve, be amazed, and angry. Being a Man, His resurrection to immortal life is the first-fruits of the human race from the grave.
2. The first-fruits were of superior excellence, being the best — most early ripe, and therefore stronger and more vigorous. Let this remind us of the excellency of Christ's human nature. He transcends all His brethren. He is without sin, and so excels in perfect purity. His soul had no base passions, His will no rebellion, His understanding was not obscured by mistakes, errors, or prejudices; His body was not influenced by bad habits, nor led astray by sensual appetites. Nor was He only free from sin; there were all the excellences which are comprised in perfection itself. He was, of all the sons of men, the first ripe for heaven — His ripeness was perfect, rich, delightful holiness and love.
3. As the first-fruits, being first ripe, were of superior excellence, and so were a shadow of Christ, so they were to be first gathered in. And thus they resembled Christ as "the first born from the dead," the first of all those who rose from the grave to immortality. It was fit that the Captain should lead the way to the soldiers, that the Conqueror of death should be the first to take possession of life, that He who was first in the perfection of holiness and grace should be first in the perfect possession of life and glory.
4. As the first-fruits were gathered on the morrow after the Sabbath, it is remarkable that our Lord rose, as "the first-fruits of them that slept," on the morrow after the Sabbath.
5. The sheaf of first-fruits was lifted up by the priest, and waved to and fro in the air, as an offering presented to the Lord. Christ, as a Priest, presented Himself as the First-fruits to God. The sheaf was waved, to be accepted:for Israel, and Christ presents Himself to God that we may be accepted before Him. As the first-fruits were presented to God, so our risen Lord rose to Him. "In that He died, He died unto sin once; but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God."
6. The corn of the first-fruits was threshed out and winnowed, and the pure corn was pounded, roasted, and, together with the oil and frankincense, was waved before God. Then part of it was made an offering by fire and the rest was the priest's. When Christ arose, He left all that was mean, humiliating, and mortal, left our sins, with His grave-clothes, in the sepulchre, as new corn separated from chaff. And the oil and frankincense may remind us of the oil of gladness with which the risen Saviour was anointed above His fellows, and the sweet frankincense of His intercession, which is sweet to God; and He offers Himself to God in flames of love, as the first-fruits, with oil and frankincense, was offered on the altar (a handful of them). The rest was for the priests, intimating that Christ, as raised from the dead, is the sweet and pure food of faith to which the spiritual priesthood are entitled. On earth and in heaven, Christ is immortal Bread, living Bread, and souls feast on Him and live and grow.
7. The first-fruits sanctified the whole crop. It might then be gathered in, but not before. Christ the first fruits being raised, such is the power of His resurrection, that the saints through Him have right to rise to a blessed immortality. But for that, they that are fallen asleep in Christ had perished. But by His resurrection they are sanctified for life and glory.
8. The first-fruits being accepted of the Lord for Israel, not only sanctified the harvest, but were a pledge that the harvest should follow. He is called the First-fruits, to convey the idea that the rest must come after. This is the doctrine and argument of this whole chapter. The favour pledged to the Church by the resurrection of Christ is the resurrection of all her members in the last day to fellowship with Christ in life, glory, and a blessed immortality. That state to which He arose, do they arise to also in their measure and order. As a prelude to this, some arose alter His resurrection. This shows that the resurrection of Christ has a retrospective influence, and sheds the dew of heaven on the graves of all who died in faith from the beginning.As He died for the sins under the first testament, so shall the ancient believers arise by virtue of His resurrection. It has also a prospective influence on the believing multitudes yet unborn.
1. The same power is employed in raising Christ and His people. "The exceeding greatness of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead." The utmost ability in man cannot re-kindle the vital spark. As no creature was employed to awaken Christ, so none shall quicken them. Here Omnipotence will work without means, and the heavenly house will be "a house not made with hands."
2. As it was the same Christ and the same body that arose, so the very bodies which fall asleep in Christ will again awake. The harvest will resemble the first-fruits in this also. It may not be every particle. "This mortal shall put, on immortality."
3. The same Spirit that quickened Christ will quicken us. It is spoken of as a privilege to be quickened by the Spirit (Romans 8.). The wicked may be raised by mere power, the saints by a holy and gracious influence. The Holy Spirit will then put forth His influence in its fullest display of power, sweetness, and glory like the influences of the spring on the vegetable world.
4. The whole Trinity concurred in Christ's, and shall also in our resurrection.
5. Sin lay on Christ before His death; and there was still some portion of the curse on Him while He lay in His grave. But He arose free from the burden. Saints have to contend with sin while in the body; but they will rise free and pure.
6. Christ wept in His last sufferings. He rose to weep no more. So from the eyes of risen Saints "God shall wipe away all tears." It is a resurrection to joy.
7. Christ; rose with His human soul full of love to His people, and they shall rise in the perfection of attachment to all who love the Lord. All envy, hatred, and alienation — all discord, strife, and evil surmisings will be destroyed for ever.
8. Christ rose with a body fit for heaven; and so shall they. "Raised in power," spirituality, and glory, all marks of their fallen and degraded estate shall disappear. "Their bodies shall be fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body." Contemplate, then, the "end of the world" as the Redeemer's harvest. See the angels gathering the sheaves into the garner after the first-fruits.
Parallel VersesKJV: But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.