Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
The Mystery of the WAVE SHEAF OFFERING Revealed at Last!
Much confusion exists concerning the meaning, significance and symbolism of the "wave sheaf" offering of Leviticus 23. Just what is the "wave sheaf"? How does it tie in with the sacrifice of Yeshua the Messiah for our sins? How does it tie in with the "firstfruits from the dead"? Here is a NEW LOOK at the mysterious "wave sheaf" offering and its amazing, wonderful symbolism!
John D. Keyser
In Leviticus 23 we read,
"And the LORD said to Moses, 'Say to the people of Israel, When you come into the land which I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the SHEAF of the FIRST FRUITS of your harvest to the priest; and he shall WAVE THE SHEAF before the LORD, that YOU may find acceptance; on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.
"And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the LORD" (Leviticus 23:10-12, RSV).
What is this "wave sheaf" offering? What does it symbolize and represent?
Notice that it is a sheaf of the "first fruits," and it is offered to YEHOVAH God before the Israelites can harvest the spring harvest. YEHOVAH commands, "And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh" -- that is, produce from the new harvest -- "until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a STATUTE FOR EVER throughout your generations in all your dwellings" (Leviticus 23:14).
Spiritual Type and Antitype
In the book of Romans, Paul writes to Christians, saying, "We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the FIRST FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies" (Romans 8:23).
Christians, those called of YEHOVAH God during this lifetime to serve and obey Him, out of every nation, are likened to "firstfruits" of YEHOVAH God. We have the "firstfruits of the spirit" of YEHOVAH as a down payment, or earnest (Ephesians 1:4-14) of our inheritance, as we are the ones who "should be to the praise of his glory, who FIRST trusted in Christ" (v. 12).
In writing of Christians in the region of Achaia (Greece) , Paul says of them, "Salute my well beloved Epaenetus, who is the FIRSTFRUITS of Achaia unto Christ" (Romans 16:5).
In the book of James we read: "Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a KIND OF FIRSTFRUITS of his creatures" (James 1:18, RSV).
In the book of Romans, Paul addresses our calling -- which is special, and unique, in the sight of YEHOVAH God. Of all people on earth, we are the few who have been given the spirit of YEHOVAH God as a begettal, indwelling within us -- a priceless heritage and gift! Therefore "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the holy spirit which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5). Paul goes on, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit....But ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the spirit of God DWELL in you. Now if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (Romans 8:1-9).
How, then, does this relate to the Wave Sheaf Offering which was performed the day after the first high holy day of Passover and the weekly Sabbath in the spring?
In the book The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, by Alfred Edersheim, we read of the reaping of the wave sheaf, and its presentation. At the end of the 15th of Nisan, says Edersheim, just as it was growing dark,
"a noisy throng followed delegates of the Sanhedrin outside the city and across the brook Kidron....[They] emerged amidst loud demonstrations, in a field across Kidron, which had been marked out for the purpose. They were to be engaged in a service most important to them....The law had it, 'Ye shall bring a SHEAF [literally the omer] of the FIRSTFRUITS of your HARVEST unto the priest [who typified, or represented the MESSIAH]; and he shall wave the omer before Jehovah [God the Father], to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the Sabbath shall ye wave it.' This Passover-sheaf, or rather omer, was to be accompanied by a burnt-offering, of a 'he lamb, without blemish, of the first year,' with its appropriate meat- and drink-offering, and after it had been brought, but not till then, fresh barley might be used and sold in the land. Now, this Passover sheaf was reaped in public the evening before it was offered, and it was to witness this ceremony that the crowd gathered around 'the elders,' who took care that all was done according to traditionary ordinance" (p. 256-57).
Notice! In the past, many have ASSUMED -- and many STILL assume -- that the Wave Sheaf Offering referred to Yeshua the Messiah, who was the offering for our sins upon the tree (II Corinthians 5:20). But does this make any sense, when we stop to think about it? It was accompanied by the offering of a male lamb without blemish -- which itself typified the Messiah! It was waved by the high priest before YEHOVAH God, to be accepted of the Father -- and the high priest typified the Messiah, our "high priest" in heaven (Hebrews 7:24-28; 9:24; 10:10). Furthermore, this "wave sheaf" was offered AFTER the sacrifice of the Messiah, our Passover Lamb (I Corinthians 5:7-8). The Passover lambs were slain in the afternoon of Nisan 14 -- the precise time when Yeshua the Messiah was slain for us!
Clearly, then, the wave sheaf -- contrary to what many have assumed and believed -- does NOT refer to the Messiah at all -- but rather is made possible BY the sacrifice of the Messiah, which precedes it in time sequence! We have the following sequence of events:
1) The sacrifice of the Messiah on Nisan 14, late afternoon;
2) The holy day of Passover -- Nisan 15 (also the weekly Sabbath);
3) The next evening, as Nisan 16 began, a sheaf (bundle) of grain is selected from the field across the Kidron valley, east of Jerusalem, and cut and bundled;
4) The next morning, Nisan 16, it is prepared and waved before the LORD and accepted of Him as "THE FIRSTFRUITS" of the harvest.
Do you begin to comprehend? Do you see? The wave sheaf offering is an offering, which is a BUNDLE OF SEPARATE BARLEY GRAINS, FROM A NUMBER OF PLANTS, AMOUNTING TO AN "OMER" -- about five pints, or two and one half quarts. This offering followed the offering of the Messiah, as our Passover lamb, who paid for our sins. It was accompanied by the burnt offering of a lamb -- the Messiah -- without blemish (Leviticus 23:12).
This Wave Sheaf Offering initiated the first of the firstfruits' harvests and was accompanied by a meal offering of grain mixed with oil and a drink offering of wine. Some Bible translations describe this offering as a sheaf being waved, however a sheaf, in its usual sense of a stalk of grain, is NOT what was waved here. In fact, the Bible does not actually refer to this ceremony as "the Wave Sheaf Offering." The Hebrew word omer, that is translated "sheaf" was actually a "measure of things dry." The very first of the firstfruits' crop offered as a "wave sheaf" offering in the Temple was, as mentioned above, about 2 1/2 quarts of barley grain that had been parched (roasted), thrashed and sieved into a fine flour. So this grain offering was very similar to other grain offerings that were waved before YEHOVAH God.
At the time of the Messiah the wave sheaf ceremony would have taken place in the following manner:
1/. The barley grain was actually cut by members of the Sanhedrin at the end of the weekly Sabbath and the First Holy Day of Unleavened Bread (they BOTH fell on the same day -- see John 19:31).
2/. The heads of grain were separated from the stalks and the removed grain was thrashed, parched with fire and ground into flour in the courtyard of the Temple that evening.
3/. The flour was then sieved until it was pure and of very fine texture (according to the Mishnah, oil and frankincense were added). From this the omer was taken.
4/. This omer was then offered early the next morning at about 9 a.m. -- the time of the morning sacrifice -- in the Temple as a meal offering waved before YEHOVAH God.
The wave sheaf itself, then, is NOT THE MESSIAH! What, then, is it?
The Wave Sheaf Offering, composed of MANY individual grains, offered together, made possible by the sacrifice of the Messiah, represents TRUE CHRISTIANS of the first-century Church era -- those called of YEHOVAH God out of the tribes of Israel during that age, as His "FIRSTFRUITS"!
It was offered to the Father AFTER the sacrifice of the Messiah, because there is NO WAY the Father could have accepted them BEFORE their sins were pardoned, and atoned for, and wiped away and washed away by the blood of the Messiah! But since the Messiah became their Saviour, and qualified by living a perfect life, and DIED for them on the tree, this made possible THEIR acceptance before the throne of YEHOVAH God's Shekinah Glory in the Jerusalem Temple!
THE FIRST-CENTURY CHRISTIANS OR, AS WE WILL SEE, THE 144,000, WERE THAT WAVE SHEAF OFFERING!
What could be plainer?
The Firstfruits of YEHOVAH
Notice, now, the reason for the Wave Sheaf Offering --
"Say to the people of Israel, When you come into the land which I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf [omer] of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest; and he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, that you [Israel] may find acceptance; on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it" (Leviticus 23:10-11, RSV).
Through this ancient ceremony the nation of Israel was to find acceptance (Hebrew: "delight, favor") before YEHOVAH God -- NOT the Messiah! Israel -- or the Ecclesia -- is the firstfruits of the harvest of YEHOVAH God:
"Israel was holy to the LORD, the firstfruits of his harvest. All who ate of it became guilty; evil came upon them, says the LORD" (Jeremiah 2:3, RSV).
The firstfruits harvests of both barley, the first crop of firstfruits, and the wheat which came later, ALL symbolize the elect of YEHOVAH God, the firstfruits of the age of the Ecclesia, both Old and New Testament saints, prior to the Messiah's future appearance. Now the wheat harvest is the consummation of the firstfruits, of this early harvest of souls. The firstfruits' harvest was FULLY GATHERED IN at Pentecost where the ceremony -- at which the two loaves representing the firstfruits (Leviticus 23:16-17) were also waved before YEHOVAH God -- was both parallel to, and the fulfillment of, the Wave Sheaf Offering.
The Day of Pentecost pictures not only the age of the Ecclesia, but also its glorification at the resurrection. Grain is used to picture the resurrection of the dead -- notice!
"But some one will ask, 'How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?' You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body" (1 Corinthians 15:35-38, RSV).
Here we see that the resurrected saints of YEHOVAH's great spiritual harvest (both former and latter) will together make up the Body of the Messiah, and will be composed of all types of people (grain) -- as attested to by the description of the Promised Land, symbolizing the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God, found in Deuteronomy 8:8 --
"...a land of wheat and barley [the firstfruits' harvest] and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey [the latter harvest]..."
So the Messiah's sacrifice, likened to the "dying" of a grain of wheat, is directly linked to a future harvest picturing the salvation of all of mankind:
"And Jesus answered them, 'The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit'" (John 12:23-24, RSV).
We have seen that in the Old Testament the term "firstfruits" designated the FIRST gatherings of the crop which were presented to YEHOVAH (Exodus 23:19; Leviticus 2:14; Nehemiah 10:35). In the New Testament the Messiah, who was "the FIRST that should rise from the dead" to immortality (Acts 26:23), is called "the FIRSTFRUITS of them that slept" (1 Corinthians 15:20). So, too, the FIRST converts that the apostle Paul made in Achaia (Greece) were called "the FIRSTFRUITS of Achaia" (1 Corinthians 16:15). Now, in a similar fashion, the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation 7:14 and 14:4, are the FIRST converts to the Messiah!
Who were these first converts? There can be no mistake about it -- the gospel went first to Israelites, and THE FIRST CONVERTS WERE FROM ISRAEL! Notice!
"No one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been redeemed from the earth...it is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes; these have been redeemed from mankind as FIRST FRUITS for God and the Lamb..." (Revelation 14:3-4, RSV).
"And I heard the number of the sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand sealed, out of every tribe of the sons of Israel..." (Revelation 7:4, RSV).
The second passage shows the identity of the 144,000 -- they are Israelites! The term "Israel" is sometimes used in the New Testament in such a way that it includes all believers in the Messiah regardless of race or national origin (Galatians 3:29; 6:16). However, verses that mention Israel in contrast to Gentiles clearly indicate a distinction in terms -- see Romans 1:16; 2:9 and Acts 13:45-46. There is such a contrast indicated in the passage about the 144,000.
In Revelation 7:4 we saw that the 144,000 were taken from "out of every tribe of the sons of Israel." Then, in verse 9, we read: "After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues" who were also redeemed by YEHOVAH God and the Lamb -- a vast ingathering from the Gentiles. (Incidentally, the words "Gentiles" and "nations" are both translated from the same Greek word, Strong's Concordance, #1484). The 144,000 were from Israel and the "great multitude" from all nations. Because of this comparison -- 144,000 from Israel on the one hand, and a "great multitude" from among the Gentiles on the other -- it is very clear that the 144,000 were converts from Israel -- Israel in the LITERAL sense of the word!
According to Revelation 14:4, the 144,000 from the tribes of Israel are the "FIRST FRUITS for God and the Lamb." Notice -- the FIRSTFRUITS! Therefore, the converts from Israel in the early years of the Church -- back in the first century! -- were the firstfruits for YEHOVAH God and the Messiah and are symbolized by the number 144,000. This fits scripturally and historically. But if the 144,000 have not yet made their appearance -- as many in the churches of God maintain -- HOW could they possibly be the "first fruits for God and the Lamb"? If the 144,000 do not appear until the very last years of this age, they would be the LAST fruits instead of the first!
Let us now briefly review the Biblical evidence showing the gospel went first to ISRAEL and that the first converts to YEHOVAH God and the Messiah were indeed ISRAELITES.
Now when John the Baptist introduced the Messiah, he spoke of him as "the Lamb of God" and as he who was to be "revealed to ISRAEL" (John 1:29-31). When originally sending out his disciples, Yeshua said: "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of ISRAEL" (Matthew 10:5-6). A nucleus of believers from Israel were gathered together in the Temple on the Day of Pentecost and eventually filled with the holy spirit. Three thousand ISRAELITES were converted on that day alone -- men from ALL the tribes of Israel being represented (Acts 2:5, 36). The gospel first went out from JERUSALEM (Acts 1:8; Luke 24:47), and it went "to the Jew FIRST" and then also to the Greeks (Romans 1:16).
When Peter spoke to a multitude of Israelites in the Temple, he said: "Men of ISRAEL...God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you FIRST, to bless you in turning every one of you from your wickedness" (Acts 3:12, 26). This same principle was later utilized in the statement made by Paul and Barnabas to the Jews at Perga. Notice: "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken FIRST to you. Since you thrust it from you...we turn to the Gentiles" (Acts 13:46).
Nevertheless, there were many thousands of Jews who did accept the Messiah -- so many in fact that we read the following statement in Acts 21:20: "You see, brother, how many thousands (Greek: myriads, or ten thousands) there are among the Jews of those who have believed"!
It should be noted that the people of the twelve tribes of Israel were not lost from sight in areas that were unknown, inaccessible, or beyond the outreach of the early Ecclesia. Had this been the case, Paul could not have spoken of the "twelve tribes...as they earnestly worship night and day" (Acts 26:7).
Converts to Yeshua the Messiah came from all the twelve tribes -- though scattered away from Judea. It was to these converts that James addressed the book that bears his name: "To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion" (James 1:1). Also significant is the fact that James refers to these converts of the Dispersion as "a kind of FIRST FRUITS of his creatures" (verse 18), a perfect cross-reference to the passage about the 144,000 from the twelve tribes of Israel!
In view of the fact that there were multiple thousands of converts from ISRAEL as the firstfruits to YEHOVAH and the Messiah, it is quite possible that their number could have reached 144,000. There is also the other possibility that this number was intended symbolically; and, as such, mathematical exactness would not be required. If this was the case, the real purpose of the number was probably to contrast it with the innumerable multitude whose conversion would follow. Of the converts from Israel, the apostle John says: "And I heard the number of the sealed", but of the great multitude: "a great multitude which no man could number" (Revelation 7:4, 9). Though 144,000 is a large number, it still can be numbered. But an amount which no man could number is seen to be very, very large in comparison. There is a deep symbolic contrast here -- a contrast, however, which definitely fits the facts of history, the greater harvest being from the Gentiles.
Unfortunately, many have accepted the futurist viewpoint on Revelation without question or further study. At first look this concept seems to be correct and true; however, a closer study shows that this hypothesis is not free from numerous serious inconsistencies and problems. For one thing, the futurist viewpoint is that the bulk of the Book of Revelation has never been fulfilled. We are told, for example, that the events of the majority of the chapters will not take place until the last years of this age. But this concept completely fails to explain the opening words of Revelation which state that these things were written to show the servants of YEHOVAH God things "WHAT MUST SOON TAKE PLACE" and that the time for their fulfillment "IS NEAR" (Revelation 1:1, 3) -- NOT thousands of years into the future!
The futurist understanding about the 144,000 is that they will not be converted until the very last years of this age; whereas the Book of Revelation says the 144,000 were the "FIRST FRUITS" unto YEHOVAH God and the Lamb! Since multiple thousands over almost 2,000 years have already been converted to the Messiah, HOW could a group converted in the future possibly be the firstfruits unto YEHOVAH and the Lamb?!
Clearly, the 144,000 were those converted during the first-century Church era and are represented by the Wave Sheaf Offering before YEHOVAH.
A Careful Look at The Wave Sheaf
Edersheim explains further in his book The Temple:
"The expression, 'the morrow after the Sabbath,' has sometimes been misunderstood as implying that the presentation of the so-called 'first sheaf' was to be always made on the day following the weekly Sabbath of the Passover-week. This view, adopted by the 'Boethusians' and the Sadducees in the time of Christ, and by the Karaite Jews and certain modern interpreters rests on a misinterpretation of the word 'Sabbath.' As in analogous allusions to other feasts in the same chapter, it means not the weekly Sabbath, but the day of the festival. The testimony of Josephus, of Philo, and of Jewish tradition, leaves no room for doubt that in this instance we are to understand by the 'Sabbath' the 15th of Nisan, on whatever day of the week it might fall. Already, on the 14th of Nisan, the spot whence the first sheaf was to be reaped had been marked out by delegates from the Sanhedrin, by tying together in bundles, while still standing, the barley that was to be cut down....When the time for cutting the sheaf had arrived, that is, on the EVENING OF THE 15TH OF NISAN (even though it were a Sabbath), just as the sun went down, three men, each with a sickle and basket, formally set to work...
"...they cut down barley to the amount of one ephah, or ten omers, or three seahs, which is equal to about three pecks and three pints of our English measure. The ears were brought into the Court of the Temple, and thrashed out with canes [typifying our carnal, fleshly nature being thrashed from us!] or stalks, so as not to injure the corn; then 'parched' [heated, typifying our being tested by hot, fiery trials] on a pan perforated with holes, so that each grain [each one of us!] might be touched by the fire, and finally exposed to the wind [the winds of false doctrine, a final test to see if we will remain faithful to the Truth of YEHOVAH God]. The corn thus prepared was ground in a barley-mill, which left the hulls whole. According to some, the flour was always successfully passed through thirteen sieves, each closer than the other [thus YEHOVAH refines our character to become the noblest possible]. The statement of a rival authority, however, seems more rational -- that it was only done till the flour was sufficiently fine, which was ascertained by one of the 'Gizbarim' (treasurers) plunging his hands into it, the sifting process being continued so long as any of the flour adhered to the hands. Though one ephah, or ten omers, of barley was cut down [i.e., "called," as it were], only one omer of flour, or about 5.1 pints of our measure, was offered [i.e., "chosen"] in the Temple in the second Paschal, or 16th day of Nisan. The rest of the flour might be redeemed, and used for any purpose.
"The omer of flour was mixed with a 'log,' or very nearly three-fourths of a pint of OIL [typifying the holy spirit], and a handful of frankincense [sweet spices, typifying praises and prayers to YEHOVAH God] put upon it, then waved before the Lord, and a handful taken out and burned on the altar. The remainder belonged to the priest. This was what is popularly, though not very correctly, called 'the presentation of the first or wave-sheaf' on the second day of the Passover-feast, or the 16th of Nisan" (The Temple, p. 257-259).
What a wonderful analogy! What a wonderful comparison! What a wonderful new revelation of divine Truth!
Those who were called during the first century constituted the WAVE SHEAF offering! Those who remained FAITHFUL were the "CHOSEN" grains who constituted the wave sheaf. Others, who began with them, but fell away from YEHOVAH God, and left the Truth, and forsook the Work, were among those who were initially "selected," and cut down, to be part of the "omer," but who were later "rejected," and did not qualify to be part of the true "first fruits."
Even as the omer is baked, "parched," cooked and sifted, we too must go through trials and tests, and be prepared to qualify to be accepted of our Maker and Creator, our Father and Master. Even as the omer must also be exposed to the "wind," we also must be "tested" to see if we will remain faithful to the truth, or follow after "various winds," "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive" (Ephesians 4:14).
What, Then, about Yeshua?
What, then, about Yeshua? He is called a "firstfruit" of many firstfruits and the Firstborn of many brethren (I Corinthians 15:20; Romans 8:29). This needs to be clearly and intelligently understood! Yeshua was not a wave-sheaf separate from us or of a different species from us -- in other words, he was fully human and NOT God -- or part God and part human. He was one individual amongst many -- not a whole "sheaf" of "grains" of barley within himself!
However, since he was "the firstborn among many brethren," or the "first of the firstfruits," in the singular, then certainly in typology, Yeshua could be represented by one of the grains -- i.e., the first grain, selected in the harvest, as a type. Even as we have to undergo trials and tests, and be parched, and sifted, and exposed to the winds, so he also had to overcome the wiles of Satan (Matthew 4:1-10). Even as we are tested, so he was tested by the Father and "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15),
"Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Hebrews 5:7-9).
The unblemished male lamb offered as a burnt offering along with the flour of the wave sheaf (Leviticus 23:12) represented Yeshua the Messiah, the OIL mixed into the fine flour (Leviticus 23:13) represented the holy spirit, given by YEHOVAH God to the Messiah without measure (John 3:34), while the drink offering of WINE which accompanied the offering (Leviticus 23:14) symbolized the shed blood of the son of YEHOVAH God (Matthew 26:27-28), which cleanses us from sin (1 John 1:7).
Similarly, the designation of "firstfruits" is first of all applied to the Messiah himself, the firstfruit of the harvest of YEHOVAH God, for he is "the head of the Church" (Ephesians 5:23), "which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all" (Ephesians 1:22-23). Notice --
"But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the FIRST FRUITS of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man [Adam] came death, by a MAN [the Messiah] has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the FIRST FRUITS, then at his coming those who belong to Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:20-23, RSV).
The Greek text of I Corinthians 15:20 reads when literally translated: "Now but Anointed [Messiah] has been raised up out of dead ones, a first-fruit of those having fallen asleep" (The Emphatic Diaglott). The Greek noun is here in the singular form (i.e., "first-fruit"), not in the plural form as the KJV inaccurately renders it. The resurrected Yeshua was only one barley plant among the omer of First-Century A.D. brethren. It takes a cluster (or, "little flock" -- Luke 12:32) of barley plants to equal one "omer" during each generation of mankind.
In Jewish practice, each "omer" (representing many brethren) was offered by waving -- not burned on the altar -- accompanied with a lamb of the first year (representing the Messiah) for burnt offering (to instruct Israel to destroy their lower animalistic human desires), with its meal and drink offerings (See: Unger's Bible Dictionary, article "Festivals"). The wave sheaf -- omer -- was offered with an accompanying symbol of the Messiah, but the wave sheaf did not, itself, represent the Messiah. True brethren down through history have always been accompanied by the spirit and presence of the Messiah!
The barley grain of the wave sheaf, which was chosen in advance just as the Lamb of YEHOVAH God was (before the foundation of the world -- 1 Peter 1:20), provides a wonderful picture of the Messiah who was:
* Abused, beaten and scourged by the Romans, then stoned by the Jews: as the grain was thrashed.
* Suffered fiery trial, culminating in the fiery pain of death: as the grain was parched (roasted).
* Was tested, purified and perfected by his earthly experiences, including the ordeal of his crucifixion: as the grain was sieved many times until it was pure.
"For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted" (Hebrews 2:18).
"Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 5:8-10, RSV).
The Messiah was a human being just like us, and "was made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted" (Hebrews 2:17-18).
He was, however, accepted by YEHOVAH God the very moment he expired on the tree.
The Wave Sheaf Offering
Many have been confused, because they have been falsely taught that the Messiah was the Wave Sheaf Offering. But nowhere does Scripture state this as a fact. It is an assumption, and leads to many problems. For example, if the Messiah was the Wave Sheaf Offering, WHY is it composed of MANY grains and barley plants?
Let us notice the proper sequence of events, as they are revealed in Leviticus 23:
1) Yeshua, as our Passover Lamb, offered himself as an unblemished sacrifice for our sins, pictured by the Passover, slain in the afternoon of Nisan 14, and partaken of at the Passover dinner at the beginning of Nisan 15. We claim this sacrifice on our behalf, symbolized by our participation in the Passover; this is step one on the path to salvation -- belief in the Messiah (Leviticus 23:5). This offering is accepted by YEHOVAH God the Father immediately upon its fulfillment -- not several days later!
2) The very next day, being the First Holy Day of the Days of Unleavened Bread (and also the weekly Sabbath), pictures our putting sin out of our lives (symbolized by the removal of leaven); this is step two on the path to salvation -- repentance from dead works and sin (Leviticus 23:6-7).
3) Then the high priest took the "wave sheaf" which symbolized the FIRSTFRUITS of the barley harvest to "wave" it before the YEHOVAH God, to be accepted. This typified the 144,000 -- the first-century Christian FIRSTFRUITS OF ZION, who became "at one with God," through the atoning sacrifice of the Messiah and their acceptance of his sacrifice on their behalf, and their beginning to obey YEHOVAH God by beginning to depart from Egypt, typified by their observance of Passover and Nisan 15. The "wave sheaf" offering meant that THEY had to first BE ACCEPTED before the rest of the HARVEST could commence!
While the first-century Christians from out of the twelve tribes of Israel were the FIRSTFRUITS -- the rest of the harvest is the general wheat harvest itself and includes all those Christians from the first-century down to our time today. The general harvest could not be reaped UNTIL the FIRSTFRUITS, the 144,000, were accepted by YEHOVAH God!
Now let's understand this, step by step!
1) The Messiah "offered himself" when he died on the Mount of Olives facing the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem Temple and sprinkled his blood before the altar of YEHOVAH's Shekinah Glory. Thus he "presented himself before YEHOVAH God." His offering was accepted IMMEDIATELY -- NOT THREE DAYS LATER!
2) However, before that sacrifice could be applied to the FIRSTFRUITS, they had to first REPENT OF SIN (putting out the leaven); once they BEGAN to do this, YEHOVAH God immediately applied the sacrifice of the Messiah to THEIR sins, and accepted his sacrifice in THEIR personal behalf.
3) This having been accomplished, the High Priest (the risen Messiah) then "waved" the first wave sheaf before the Father's Presence in the Temple, to be accepted by Him -- picturing the 144,000 of ISRAEL, then being offered to the Father as the "FIRSTFRUITS" of the new harvest! The wave sheaf, composed of many individual grains of barley, thus typified the many individuals among the FIRSTFRUITS OF THE ECCLESIA OF YEHOVAH GOD, being called and "chosen" during this age, to inherit the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God!
Thus the one-two-three step process is completed, and symbolized by Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Wave Sheaf Offering. How amazing! How wonderful! How fulfilling! How humbling!
The Mistake of Some Churches
Notice! It is very clear how the Passover/First Day of Unleavened Bread/Wave Sheaf Offering all tie closely together, every year, as a yearly celebration. However, if we divorce the wave sheaf from Passover, and place it on Sunday after the so-called weekly Saturday Sabbath, as some Churches do, this destroys the close continuity between the Passover, Unleavened Bread, and the wave sheaf.
Due to the fact that these churches DO NOT realize the First Day of Unleavened Bread ALWAYS falls on the weekly Sabbath (see John 19:31; Exodus 16 and Joshua 5:11), such a formula actually introduces a varying and changing format which is different every year -- depending on what day of the week Passover falls in the Gregorian calendar we use today.
Writes a "pastor" of a Church of God congregation --
"If we believe that the wave sheaf should be offered on the day after the WEEKLY Sabbath, as some do, then the fact of the matter is that the only time you would have three days and three nights between Passover, when Jesus died, till Saturday evening/Sunday morning wave sheaf offering, would be only on those years where Passover occurred on a Wednesday!"
On all other years, the formula would fail! The three-day and three-night arrangement between Passover and the wave sheaf offering would be destroyed. On some years, where Passover was on the Sunday, the Worldwide Church of God would postpone the wave sheaf offering till the FOLLOWING Sunday, a week later! But in 1994, when Passover was on Saturday, they backed up and called that same Saturday the "Sabbath" from which the wave sheaf was counted -- the Sabbath BEFORE the Feast of Unleavened Bread even started! -- and thus they began counting the very NEXT DAY after Passover! Again, destroying any 3 day relationship which existed between the death of the Messiah and the wave sheaf offering!
There are a number of serious problems with the above statements:
1/. This "pastor" assumes the weekly Sabbath always falls on a Saturday. This is NOT true! The weekly Sabbath is tied to the phases of the moon and can fall on any day of the week (including Saturday) in the Gregorian calendar we have inherited. For further information, read our articles Have We Been Observing the Sabbath At the Wrong Time All These Years?, The New Moon and the Weekly Sabbath -- Side-By-Side! and From Sabbath to Saturday: The Story of the Jewish Rest Day.
2/. This "pastor" also assumes that the Messiah was in the tomb -- dead and buried -- for a total of 3 days and 3 nights, or 72 full hours. This is another fallacy! The term "three days and three nights" is an idiomatic expression from the first century that means "three days" counted inclusively -- NOT a full 72 hours! When you read the gospel accounts of the death, burial and resurrection of the Messiah, there is absolutely no way you can insert a period of 72 hours between the Messiah's death and his resurrection without seriously violating the Biblical accounts. For further proof on this important subject, send for the article Was Yeshua the Messiah Really In the Grave for Three Days and Three Nights?
3/. This same person also assumes (once again!) that the Messiah rose from the dead on the later afternoon of the weekly (Saturday) Sabbath -- another "idea" that is easily refuted by the Bible itself. Notice!
"Now after the sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the sepulchre...the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid...he is not here; for he has risen..." (Matthew 28:1, 5, 6).
"Now when he [the Messiah] rose EARLY ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene..." (Mark 16:9).
The gospel accounts clearly show the CLOSE relationship time wise between the death, burial and resurrection of the Messiah -- a period of time that cannot be stretched out to 72 hours! Yeshua died on the Preparation Day (Nisan 14), was in the tomb all of the First Day of Unleavened Bread (Nisan 15) and the weekly Sabbath (Nisan 15), to rise from the grave on the First Day of the Week (Nisan 16) -- the same day that the Wave Sheaf was offered to YEHOVAH God. Further information can be found in the article Was Yeshua the Messiah Really In the Grave for Three Days and Three Nights?
Obviously, there is something very wrong with our "pastor" friend's formula! The real error, however, is simple: The "wave sheaf" does not -- and never did -- represent the resurrection of the Messiah as some believe, but rather represents us, the Ecclesia, as the "first fruits from the dead" being made "acceptable" to YEHOVAH God the Father through the efforts of Yeshua our Elder Brother! The historical evidence appears to indicate that the early New Testament Church recognized the importance of what they called "Wave Sheaf Sunday"; this understanding was, however, eventually displaced to focus on both Sunday observance and Easter Sunday as commemorative of the resurrection of the Messiah. All we know from the Scriptures is that the Messiah was resurrected on THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK -- whether that equates to "Sunday" in the Gregorian calendar of today is uncertain and hard to prove.
"Touch Me Not"
There is a passage in the Book of John that gives the expositors and doctrinal scholars no end of trouble:
"Jesus said to her [Mary], 'Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'" (John 20:17).
Many assume that the reason Yeshua told Mary not to touch him, after he had been resurrected, was because he had not yet ascended to YEHOVAH God the Father to be "accepted" of Him as our "wave sheaf offering."
Is this true? Did the Messiah disappear and ascend to heaven shortly after he was seen by Mary, and return to earth shortly afterwards, before he revealed himself to all the disciples? Let's understand this!
Writes our anonymous "pastor" friend --
"We know that Jesus was in the grave three days and three nights -- or 72 hours (Matt.12:40). This period of time would begin at about 6:00 PM Wednesday evening, when He was put into the tomb, just before sunset (John 19:31, 38-42). Therefore, the 72 hours He was buried would have ended about 6:00 PM, 72 hours later -- or Saturday evening! What did Jesus do from 6:00 PM in the evening of Saturday until the next morning when He revealed Himself to Mary, and later to the other disciples?"
We are not told, in the Scriptures.
First of all, the Messiah was NOT in the grave for exactly 72 hours -- nowhere near that long, in fact! Therefore, he was NOT resurrected on the evening of the Sabbath, and did NOT have numerous hours to lollygag around before he revealed himself to Mary! As the Scriptures clearly reveal, he was resurrected early in the morning of the First Day of the Week -- probably not long before the disciples found the tomb empty and Mary encountered the risen Messiah in the garden.
Continues our confused "pastor" friend:
"Why then do some think Jesus ascended at some moment between the time He told Mary not to touch Him, and later that same day when He appeared to all the disciples? The reason is that when the women went to tell the others that angels had told them Jesus had arisen, and was going before them into Galilee, we read: 'And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him'" (Matthew 28:9).
The question is: Why did he tell Mary not to touch him, and yet the disciples held him by the feet, worshipping him? The assumption is that between these two events, he very quickly ascended to Heaven and returned, being accepted of the Father -- so now they could "touch" him. But is this assumption correct?
Let's examine John 20:17 in detail and see what it really says!
It appears that both Matthew and Luke are saying that after the Messiah's resurrection he could be "held" and "handled" while John is saying that he could not even be "touched" in some translations. To answer this apparent contradiction we first need a mini-lesson in Greek grammar.
In A Grammar Manual of the Greek New Testament by H.E. Dana and Julius Mantey, we find the following on page 301:
"(2) The Present Imperative in Prohibitions. The present tense is properly used for expressing CONTINUED ACTION. A prohibition in the present imperative demands that action then in progress be stopped.
me krinete, ina me krithete
Stop judging, lest ye be judged. Mt. 7:1
ego eklan...leyei moi, Me klaie
I was weeping; he says to me, Stop weeping. Rev. 5:4,5."
Now, let's apply this to the beginning of John 20:17. This verse also includes a prohibitive, present imperative: me mou haptou. It would be better rendered as "Stop touching me." The point? As Dana and Mantey indicated, "A prohibition in the present imperative demands that ACTION then IN PROGRESS be stopped."
So Mary is already touching the risen Messiah. But the Messiah is commanding her to stop. But why? Help in answering this question can be found by looking at the word rendered "touch."
The Greek word rendered "touch" in the KJV is haptou. Walter Baur's A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament renders the word haptou as "touch, take hold of, hold." Johannes Louw and Eugene Nida's Greek-English Lexicon gives two main definitions for this verb that fit the context of John 20:17: "hold on to" and "touch." For the former, they then give a more in-depth definition of: "to hold on to an object -- 'to hold on to, to retain in the hand, to seize.'" For the latter, the in-depth definition is, "to touch, with the implication of relatively firm contact -- 'to touch.'"
In his commentary on the Gospel of John, Merril C. Tenny summarizes the lexical connotations of this verb as: "The verb hapto DOES NOT mean to touch with the tip of a finger to test whether an object is real or not but to 'CLUTCH' or 'GRIP.'"
So Mary was not just touching the Messiah -- she was HOLDING him, GRASPING him, CLINGING to him. The Messiah is simply telling her to let go, enough is enough already! Putting all the above together, the first part of John 20:17 should be rendered, "Stop holding me..." or possibly, "Stop clinging to me..."
So the Messiah is being "held" in Matthew; he is being "handled" in Luke; and he is being "held" or "clung to" in John. There is, therefore, NO contradiction between the Gospels. In fact, the only reason there is even an "apparent contradiction" between these passages is because of the rather poor rendering of the KJV.
Compare, however, the translation of the NKJV, "Do not cling to me...." Even without using "Stop" this rendering still has the sense that the Messiah is commanding that Mary cease what she is ALREADY DOING. The Messiah would not have said "Do not cling to me" to someone who was not even touching him!
Now let's answer WHY the Messiah is telling Mary to "Stop clinging to me...."
In Clarke's Commentary on the Bible we read the following --
"Touch me not -- ...[me mou haptou], cling not to me...[Hapto] has this sense in Job 31:7, where the Septuagint uses it for the Hebrew...dabak, which signifies to CLEAVE, CLING, STICK, or be GLUED to. From Matthew 28:9, it appears that some of the women held him by the feet and worshipped him. This probably Mary did; and our Lord seems to have spoken to her to this effect: "Spend no longer time with me now: I am not going immediately to heaven -- you will have several opportunities of seeing me again: but go [immediately] and tell my disciples, that I am, by and by, to ascend to my Father and God, who is your Father and God also. Therefore, let them take courage."
In Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible we find a similar analysis --
"Jesus saith unto her, touch me not,....Not that his body was an aerial one, or a mere 'phantom,' which could not be touched...rather, because he had an errand to send her on to his disciples, WHICH REQUIRED HASTE; nor need she stay now to show her respect to him, since she would have opportunity enough to do that, before his ascension; which though it was to be quickly, yet not directly and immediately; and this seems to be the sense of our Lord's reason: for I am not yet ascended to my Father; nor shall I immediately go to Him; I shall make some stay upon earth; as he did, forty days before his ascension; when he intimates, she might see him again, and familiarly converse with him; at present he would have her stay no longer with him: but go [immediately] to my brethren..."
In Wesley's Notes we also read:
"20:17 Touch me not -- Or rather, Do not cling to me (for she held him by the feet,) Mt. 28:9. Detain me not now. You will have other opportunities of conversing with me. For I am not ascending to my Father -- I have not yet left the world. But go IMMEDIATELY to my brethren..."
When you think about it this was the MOST MOMENTOUS event in the history of mankind! Without the resurrection there is nothing -- this life is all there is, no life after death, nothing -- just a huge blank! With the resurrection of the Messiah mankind could now reach for the stars -- become kings and leaders in the World Tomorrow here on this earth -- and eventually the entire universe! Clearly Mary did not yet understand this, and instead of RUSHING immediately to inform the disciples that everything the scriptures pointed to had occurred, she clung to the Messiah and thereby received his loving rebuke.
Our misguided "pastor" friend tries to put a sexual slant on the Messiah's statement to Mary by saying: "The simple answer is revealed by the Greek expression Jesus used, when He told Mary, 'Touch me not.' The word for 'touch' in this verse is haptomai and literally means, 'to attach oneself to, i.e., to touch (in many implied relations).' It is the same word Paul used in I Corinthians 7:1, where he wrote, speaking of sexual or sensual holding or hugging, and close bodily contact: 'It is good for a [single] man not to touch a woman.'"
Such are the ways of this world -- a sexual connotation has to be applied to almost everything! The fact is, the Greek word haptomai implies no such connotation -- it simply means "to touch," "to lay hold on," "to embrace"; "to hurt," etc. (Greek-English Lexicon to the New Testament, by Dawson and Taylor). This word only takes on a "sexual" implication when used in a sexual context. Here the Messiah simply wanted Mary to stop worshipping him and RUSH and tell the disciples about the incredible event that had just taken place!
Forty days later he ascended to Heaven and was exalted to the right hand of YEHOVAH God and to take on his NEW spiritual body.
The Messiah's exaltation and glorification was prophesied centuries before by the prophet Daniel, who wrote --
"I saw in the night visions and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man and he came to the Ancient of Days [YEHOVAH God] and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed" (Daniel 7:13-14).
Because the Messiah's authority was now absolute and worldwide following his resurrection and the certainty of his ascension to Heaven forty days later, he could say to his disciples in Matthew 28:18: "ALL authority in HEAVEN and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations..." However, the first-century Ecclesia could NOT have carried out this directive before they were "waved" before YEHOVAH God's Shekinah Glory in the Jerusalem Temple as a fulfillment of the Wave Sheaf Offering.
The wave sheaf -- representing the New Testament Church -- was accepted by the Father through our High Priest and Elder Brother! Then, forty days after his resurrection, Yeshua the Messiah was exalted to YEHOVAH's right hand.
To recount the events of the day, the Messiah was
1/. resurrected from the dead "early on the first day of the week" (Mark 16:9) and "toward the DAWN of the first day of the week" (Matthew 28:1).
2/. He appeared to Mary Magdalene, in his resurrected human form, shortly after his resurrection and shortly after the two Maries entered the sepulchre (John 20:14-17).
3/. At 9:00 a.m. -- the exact time of the Morning Sacrifice in the Temple -- the Messiah "waved" the omer before his Father in the Jerusalem Temple for the acceptance of the FIRSTFRUITS.
4/. Later that day (the First Day of the Week) he appeared to the eleven disciples while they were gathered together and "breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the holy spirit'" (John 20:19, 22). He also told them to "go into ALL the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation" (Mark 16:15).
Clearly, at his resurrection, and following his appearance before YEHOVAH God in the Jerusalem Temple, the Messiah was given all power and authority from his Heavenly Father.
The Messiah had originally been sent only to the "lost sheep of the House of Israel" (Matthew 15:24), among whom, for the most part, he exercised his authority (John 5:27). Following his resurrection, however, the Messiah was now fully invested with the authority he had been promised and which he had often spoken about as receiving. So, after his resurrection, he could say -- "ALL authority in HEAVEN and on earth has been GIVEN to me" (Matthew 28:18). Because the Messiah's authority was now absolute and worldwide, the door of salvation was now open and worldwide:
"Go therefore and make disciples of ALL nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20).
The Wave Sheaf Revisited
Now that we know and understand that the "Wave Sheaf Offering," the omer, was offered in ancient Israel on the day after Passover and the weekly Sabbath, and that this bundle of grain, parched, heated, and carefully refined and sifted, REFERS TO US -- THE TRUE FIRSTFRUITS of YEHOVAH God -- what should this mean to us?
Is this new knowledge something that we should just "take for granted"? Is it something we should just go "ho hum, what-else-is-new" about?
Does this new knowledge EXCITE us, and make us more fervent in our love for YEHOVAH God and His great Plan and Purpose? Does it make our spiritual taste buds tingle with anticipation, delight, and joyous ecstasy and wondrous jubilation and make us to thrill with happiness?
The 144,000 came first -- after the Messiah, who was the very "first" of the firstfruits, followed by the rest of those called down through the ages. Then, the rest of the harvest will follow. As Paul wrote so clearly:
"But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a MAN [NOT a god or half god and half man] has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power" (I Corinthians 15:20-24, RSV).
The Messiah was the first of the firstfruits, and his death and sacrifice makes it possible for us to be the bundle of barley grain harvested together as the firstfruits, for his kingdom. As John wrote, he has "made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth" (Revelation 5:10). John added: "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them...and they lived and REIGNED with Christ a thousand years. But the REST of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the FIRST resurrection" -- the FIRST HARVEST -- the harvest of FIRSTFRUITS! (Revelation 20:4-5). "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the FIRST resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of [YEHOVAH] God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years" (verse 6).
We are the FIRSTFRUITS that makes possible the remainder of the HARVEST! Therefore, should we not give special HEED to our calling? As Paul wrote,
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a LIVING SACRIFICE, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Romans 12:1-2).
Let us therefore "give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip" (Hebrews 2:1). "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation?" (Hebrews 2:3). "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin" (Hebrews 3:12-13).
Paul also wrote, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (I Corinthians 10:12).
Let us take heed that we do not take these wonderful truths for granted, or let them slip, or lose our grip on them. Let us strive to perfect ourselves, so that we may be worthy to be one of the "chosen" ones, who will comprise the "Firstfruits" of the Harvest to YEHOVAH God! Let us strive to overcome our human nature, and put to death our animal urges and lusts of the flesh, and strive to prepare ourselves to meet YEHOVAH God Himself and our Lord and Master, Yeshua the Messiah, at their soon coming Return!
Hope of Israel Ministries – Proclaiming the Good News of the Soon-Coming Kingdom of YEHOVAH God!
Hope of Israel Ministries
P.O. Box 2186
Temple City, CA 91780, U.S.A.
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