|- Ray & Doris Prinzing -
"These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. 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].
Apart from those scriptures which specifically refer to the identity of Jesus Christ as The Firstborn, such as, "Jesus Christ, the witness, the faithful, the firstborn out from among the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth." [Rev. 1:5, Interlinear], we find that most often the Word speaks of FIRSTBORN or FIRST FRUITS as a quality attained to, and the qualification of those thus God-placed.
Out of the nations of the Adamic Race God chose, by His sovereign election of grace, ISRAEL, and He called them His firstborn. "Thus saith the Lord, Israel is My son, My firstborn." [Exodus 4:22]. "For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers..." [Deut. 7:6-8].
Israel, a nation called to be His first fruits people, to be His witness to all other nations, and through whom all nations would be blessed. But they found it hard to live and fulfill such a calling, and because of the carnal nature within them, they corrupted themselves after the ways of the nations about them. And it was said to them, "Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise? is not He thy Father that hath bought thee? hath He not made thee, and established thee ?" [Deut. 32:6].
Then history goes on to recount the parabolic dealings of God with Israel, all portraying the deeper experiences and circumstances out of which God's SPIRITUAL FIRSTFRUITS shall come. Now inasmuch as "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." [Romans 11:29], for God does not change His mind, having already foreknown things would go this way, He simply purposed to further DEEPEN His work in man, until He could bring forth a spiritual remnant out of natural Israel, a people qualified to be this first fruits who would fulfill this call in fullest measure.
"When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called My son out of Egypt." [Hosea 11:1]. There have already been two fulfillments for this scripture, and the third is now in progress. As a nation, fifteen hundred years before Christ's first advent, God brought them out of. Egypt, led them through the wilderness, and brought them into Canaan. Then, in due time, the PATTERN SON, Jesus Christ, as a child was taken into Egypt, as his parents fled from the wrath of Herod, and to again fulfill this word, "out of Egypt have I called my SON." And now, for the third time, speaking as in parable form, we are being called out of Egypt, type of the world and its fleshly desires, to be separated unto God, to become His true spiritual first fruits.
Later on, because of their disobedience and waywardness, Israel was sent into captivity in Babylon, and in due time a remnant returned, with the call of the prophet, "Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul." [Jeremiah 51:6]. Again this has much spiritual application for today, as the challenge is renewed, "Come out of her, My people." [Revelation 18:4]. As God calls out of modern Babylon (confusion), in all of its political, economical, and religious ramifications.
Also, we again see how Christ is the Pattern for this "coming out," as He blazed the trail through all the religious confusion of His day, exposed that which was only the doctrines of men, and became the way to the Father, and into true reality.
Thus we realize that God continues to seal unto Himself a remnant, out of every tribe, His election by grace, His spiritual part of natural Israel. (And in their own right, a first fruits of every race for their race).
"Having willed it, He begat us by the Word of truth, into our being first fruits a certain kind― the Himself creatures." [James 1:18, free translation].
Here is the heart of the matter, it is according to His own will that He is bringing forth a new creation, and though the phraseology is a bit crude, its message is glorious, for these are to be first fruits of the "HIMSELF CREATURES," in contradistinction to the old Adamic self-nature. And in order to have just such a people, they must be redeemed from the earth, loosed from all of this present earthiness, with its passions and desires, and separated unto God, to become WHOLLY HIS.
First fruits unto God! There are no counterfeits in the ultimates, when God manifests reality. As long as the "new creation man" remains "the hidden man of the heart." [1 Peter 3:4], and "your life is hid with Christ in God." [Col. 3:3], while this condition remains, we say, there is opportunity for men to proclaim themselves. These "clouds without water" [Jude 12], "profess themselves to be wise" [Romans 1:22], and are able to deceive many with their "great swelling words of vanity." [2 Peter 2:18]. But the day of reckoning approaches! In due time God shall manifest HIS NEW "Himself creatures," and their new STATE OF BEING shall utterly silence all the false claims of carnal men.
Conformed to His image, one in the Christ, filled with His Spirit, possessing His divine nature, no man will be able to counterfeit the reality of this new state of being, and these shall redound to the glory of God. Indeed, they will be the manifestation of "the image and glory of God." [1 Corinthians 11:7].
Obviously, "no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God." [Hebrews 5:4]. It is an inworking transformation that is GOD-WROUGHT, for God starts it, God works it out, and God brings the climax. Because it is ALL OF HIM no man can duplicate such glorious handiwork. For, after all, "not he who recommends himself, that one is accepted after having been put to the test, but he whom the Lord recommends, that one has His stamp of approval placed upon him, that approval being based upon the fact that the approved one has met the test satisfactorily." [2 Cor. 10:18, Wuest Expanded].
It is no attack on the sovereignty of God, nor His tremendous foreknowledge, to also recognize that we need to "give diligence to make our calling and election sure." [2 Peter 1:10]. The world might sing, "Whatever will be will be," but the Psalmist declared, "0 God, Thou art my God; early will I seek Thee: my soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; to see Thy power and Thy glory." [Psalm 63:1-2].
When Israel was brought out of Egypt, they received the calling to be God's firstborn, and they were led in two short years right up to the border of Canaan, but they were not prepared for entering in― unbelief had taken its toll, and they had to turn and wander in the wilderness for "forty years ... after the number of the days in which ye searched the land, (by their spies which they had sent in), even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach (interruption) of promise." [Numbers 14:33-34].
It is interesting to consider this "breach" of promise for a moment, for the Hebrew word is "tenuah" meaning removal, alienation. The promise abides, but those who would have entered into its fulfillment were removed because they did not qualify, they failed in their unbelief, and could not enter into His rest. This word is only used twice, the other time being in Job 33:10, where Elihu quotes Job as having said before, "Behold, He (God) findeth OCCASIONS (breaches) against me, He counteth me for His enemy." Because of his trials and sufferings, Job thought that God had REMOVED him from His favour, that he was cut off from the flow of blessing, that a breach had been made. This wasn't the case, for Job was even then being processed for a greater manifestation of the blessing of God. But it does help us to grasp a little clearer the meaning of this word.
Then we are reminded of the message unto the church of Ephesus, "Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will REMOVE thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." [Revelation 2:4-5].
This was no idle threat, it was a solemn warning that there can be A REMOVAL, a breach, if the qualifications are not met. Paul clearly recognized this, when he wrote, "But I keep under my body, and bring it into submission: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."[1 Cor. 9:27].
But for those in whom the Spirit works, and brings them to perfection, there is reserved a double-portion blessing. This is the right of the firstborn, it belongs to those who become His first fruits. "And he shall acknowledge the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his." [Deut. 21: 17].
Elisha caught this vision, and when Elijah was about to be taken away from him, he made his request, "And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me." [2 Kings 2:9]. He saw that there was a realm beyond the ordinary, and he made bold to ask for it. The thought is not just for quantity, a double portion, though interestingly enough there are exactly twice as many miracles recorded in the Scripture in the ministry of Elisha, as that of Elijah. But what he really desired was THE POSITION OF A FIRSTBORN.
Now, "A pupil is not superior to his teacher, but every one when he is completely trained-readjusted, restored, set to rights and perfected― will be like his teacher." [Luke 6:40, Amplified]. A servant is not greater than his lord, nor was Elisha asking for a place beyond that which Elijah held, but he earnestly desired that firstborn son's position, so that he would receive the full ministry and the supply for its accomplishment.
We would repeat, do not get hung up on the double portion, twice as much aspect, for it simply indicates a sufficient supply corresponding to the responsibility which is inherent in the position of the firstborn. We do not receive double portions so that we become "greater gods" than God, Jesus clearly said, and it is our position also, "My Father is greater than I." [John 14:28]. A son knows his place, and in all things our Lord Jesus Christ shall have the pre-eminence. Yet there is a calling, so high and holy, of becoming one in that many-membered son company of first fruits of the Himself creatures.
Esau sold his birthright position, gave up his rights to it, and then later sought the restoration of that position with tears, but there could be no change of mind, flesh had been satisfied, the pleasure of sin had been indulged in for a season, but at the price of this great spiritual blessing. The high callings of God are not to be trifled with, and we dare not neglect so great a salvation!
Although the scope of the ministry of the firstborn is tremendous, and volumes could be written thereon, we shall but briefly point out some of the basic specifics, of which there are four. The firstborn was to become the priest of the home, after his father had passed on, and to fill the needed functions of ministry to the family.
1) to redeem a brother in debt.
"After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him." [Leviticus 25:48]. We might also point out that if there was no "firstborn son" available, for various and sundry reasons, death, etc. that the nearest of kin could fill this role, but as far as position was concerned, it was the right and the duty of the firstborn, be there a firstborn, to fulfill this redemptive ministry.
Let it also be clear, everything is first manifested in our Lord Jesus Christ, and then in its own proper time and operation, through those who BECOME ONE IN HIM as a part of the whole first fruits company. So we read, "Christ hath redeemed us..." [Galatians 3:13]. "Redeemed― with the precious blood (OUT-POURED LIFE) of Christ." [1 Peter 1:18-19]. It is HIS total redemptive work which causes our activity in Him to become effective. For at best we are only "labourers together with God." [1 Cor. 3:9], and we cannot work apart from Him. It is HIS LIFE which makes the pouring out of our life effectual in the help of others.
Yet, that there is this ministry of redeeming a brother in debt is beautifully illustrated in the life of Paul, who wrote, "If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account: I Paul have written with mine own hand, I will repay..." [Philemon 18-19].
Of the repaying of a debt for another of that which is owed in finances, this we understand, providing one has the means to do so, but before Paul dealt with the more material aspects, he first stated, "if he hath wronged thee..." and this touches a whole different realm, and still Paul felt that he was in a position to take care of this also.
Not until we are completely self-sufficient IN THE SUFFICIENCY OF CHRIST will we have the ability to fully redeem our brothers in debt, but again we read, "And God is able to make all grace come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need, be self-sufficient-possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work." [2 Corinthians 9:8, Amplified].
"I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me― I am ready for anything and equal to anything THROUGH HIM Who infuses inner strength into me, that is, I am self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency." [Philippians 4:13, Amplified].
Then shall be fulfilled that scripture which says, "Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever ye retain, they are retained." [John 20:23]. As "saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the Lord's." [Obadiah 21].
Furthermore, let it be pointed out that these shall move with that wisdom which comes from above, so that they will not act prematurely out of soulish sentiment and human temperament, to bail a person out of his trouble before he has learned his lesson and been duly processed thereby. But knowing the timetables of God, His first fruits will be in the right place, at the right time, to say, "this day has salvation come to this house," and they shall bring restoration and deliverance to the captives in distress. How tremendous is the vision set before us, and only THROUGH CHRIST shall such a ministry be revealed.
2) to redeem the inheritance.
"If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold." [Leviticus 25:25].
Not only was there to be a redemption of the brother sold into slavery, but there was also to be a complete redemption of his entire inheritance which also was lost. All the possessions are to be restored. All the bright nature, all of the dominion over the lesser realms of creation, even the physical body itself is to be redeemed. All the gifts and graces which were taken away either through default, or deception, or by the guile of the enemy, etc. everything that rightfully belongs to a child of God must be restored.
Praise God! Christ has accomplished this for us, and we have "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you." [1 Peter 1:4]. Christ hath redeemed our inheritance. Everything that the first Adam lost, all that was ravaged by the destroyer, shall be restored through our blessed Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Now we are being prepared for the hour when we shall receive this possession back again, and share His glory. Man, in his fallen state, would lose the inheritance as fast as it was given to him. Like the prodigal son, we would waste all our substance in riotous living to satisfy the lusts of the flesh. But as we are changed, transformed, becoming a new creation in Christ Jesus, fully conformed to His image, then shall we receive that which is now held in reserve for us. He now works within to make us fully "meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." [Col 1:12].
Then, as a firstborn company, there are those who shall share in the ministry of bringing back this possession in all of its outworkings for all creation. "And they that be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in." [Isaiah 58:12].
The OLD waste places, all of that which was laid desolate through the ages, corrupted by sin, covered over with shame, while we became the servants of sin, under the tyranny of change and decay, all shall be restored. Loss is temporary, for God is able to make ALL THINGS work together into good, and to turn every blemish and scar into a mark of beauty.
"And this is in harmony with God's merciful purpose for the government of the world when the times are ripe for it― the purpose which He has cherished in His own mind of restoring the whole creation to find its one Head in Christ." [Ephesians 1:10, Weymouth].
3) to avenge the blood of thy brother.
If something happened so that a man was slain without cause, it was the right of the firstborn son to avenge the blood of his brethren. The vengeance must be a righteous act, in accordance with the crime, as justice was fully met and upheld.
Concerning our Lord, The Firstborn, it is written, "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the son." [John 5:22]. He is now in the position of avenging all innocent blood. Yes, the whole Adamic race, which has been polluted with blood, bruised by the serpent, and slain by sin, shall He avenge― bringing forth judgment which shall SET TO RIGHTS the whole again.
Likewise, those who overcome and share His throne shall share in the ministry of this judgment. "To execute vengeance upon the heathen, punishments upon the people; to bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron. To execute upon them the judgments written: this honour have all saints." [Psalm 149:7-9]. The Lord becoming IN THEM the full resource for its accomplishment.
"Rejoice, O ye nations, with His people; for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and will render vengeance to His adversaries, and will be merciful unto His land, to His people." [Deut. 32:43.].
This is why there needs to be such a work of inner sanctification and purification in us, that we might be ONE IN HIS NATURE OF LOVE, because along with the judgment process, to set to rights that which is perverted, there must also be that element of MERCY which will balance the score, and bring forth anew life, once the correction is made.
"In his humiliation his judgment is taken away: and who shall declare his generation?" [Acts 8:33]. There is this present time of our humiliation, when our blood is not avenged, and we bear the shame and reproach, going forth unto Him without the camp. But once the process has fully worked in us of God's purpose, there shall come a time when He shall avenge His elect. And there shall come a time when we, too, shall be given the charge to "revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled." [2 Cor. 10:6].
4) to raise up seed to the dead.
When a man would die, and leave no seed, no child to bear his name, it was the duty of the firstborn to raise up seed unto his brother, that the brother's name be not perished from the earth.
Then said Boaz, "What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance." [Ruth 4:5].
Boaz was willing to perform all that this role required, but there was one who was a nearer kinsman than he, and so to this one was the challenge given, but he would not accept it, for the nearer kinsman said, "I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance." [Ruth 4:6]. And isn't this so true even this day, as many will not seek to lift up the name of Christ, because they are too involved in protecting and exalting their own name? Man would build his own kingdom, and spread abroad his own name, and thus refuse to build the kingdom of God. They will not raise up seed unto Him who died for us, who gave His life that we might live.
Boaz, however, was willing and delighted to both redeem the inheritance, and to also take Ruth for his wife, and raise up seed in the name of the one who had died. Thus Boaz was brought into the honour of becoming a forefather of David, and in being willing to lose his own name for the sake of another, we find that his name is well remembered, while the name of the nearer kinsman is not even known. We may lose our life, poured out in service unto the Lord, but we shall also find ourselves IDENTIFIED IN HIM to bear His name, and to share His glory.
"When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, HE SHALL SEE HIS SEED... He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied." [Isaiah 53; 10-11].
What a ministry of glory, power, blessing, and life shall be forthcoming from the firstborn company which receives that double portion, that sufficient supply to meet every need, and to help restore creation back into God again, that "HE might be all in all."
THE CHALLENGE OF THE BIRTHRIGHT
The challenge of the birthright upon thy heart is laid,
A calling so tremendous that few its price have paid.
A vision so o'erwhelming one scarce can take it in,
And yet so captivating we must this honour win.
To be in Christ a first fruits, partaker of its claim,
Inheriting the promise, and bear His holy name.
Possess a double portion, that we might freely give
His life to those in darkness, until they too shall live.
Our Own needs met so fully, enough and then to spare,
That we might share men's burdens, and help their load to
Save and bless the later-born, the promise thus did read,
As one in Christ we now become of Abraham's true seed.
And so we must consider, we have not yet arrived,
And some have sold their birthright, from blessing
They faced a breach of promise, they did not qualify,
Because self was not conquered, its lust to crucify.
The promise is abiding, the calling standeth sure,
And someone shall fulfill it, reality procure.
We dare not face removal, we must its vict'ry gain,
E'en though for present moments we suffer travail's pain.
The morning shall declare it, a first fruit son is born,
Composite host of pilgrims the world did mock and scorn.
In Christ they are emerging, the work of sovereign grace,
A new creation brethren― the birthright to embrace.
Writings in This Series: