The two parts of this chapter (vv. 1-5 and 6-20) are unified by the fact that firstfruits (14:4) imply a harvest (14:15-16). In the Hebrew Bible every firstborn, human or animal, belonged to the Lord (Ex 13:2), so the "firstfruits," or initial yield of every crop, were set aside as a sacrificial offering (for example, Lev 2:9-14; Neh 10:35-37). God's portion of the harvest was given to God up front, as it were. In the New Testament, "firstfruits" is used as a metaphor for something given in advance, anticipating a greater benefit or "harvest" to come. This can be the resurrection of Jesus anticipating the resurrection of believers (1 Cor 15:23), the Spirit as a gift from God pointing to future resurrection (Rom 8:23), the first converts in a particular region holding out the promise of more converts to come (Rom 16:5; 1 Cor 16:15) or reborn Christians offering hope for the rebirth of God's creation (Jas 1:18).
Our passage is unique within the New Testament in that the 144,000 as sacrificial "firstfruits" anticipate a "harvest" seen not as blessing or salvation, but as judgment, a harvest rather like John the Baptist's, in which the Harvester was to "clear his threshing floor" and "gather the wheat into his barn," but "burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Lk 3:17). John's glimpse of the 144,000 on Mount Zion is but a brief respite between the wrath of the beasts against them in the preceding chapter and the wrath of God on their behalf in the harvest that follows.
Step 1 - Create an account or log in to start your free trial.
Starting your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus is easy. You’re already logged in with your Bible Gateway account. The next step is to enter your payment information. Your credit card won’t be charged until the trial period is over. You can cancel anytime during the trial period.
Click the button below to continue.
Step 1 - Create an account or log in to start your subscription.
You’ve already claimed your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus. To subscribe at our regular subscription rate of $3.99/month, click the button below.
Upgrade to remove banner ads and unlock new features!
For the best Bible Gateway experience, consider an upgrade to Bible Gateway Plus. For less than the cost of a latte each month, you'll get reduced banner ads and a huge digital Bible study library. Try it free for 30 days!