We can readily find the themes of the Pentecost offering in the church, going all the way back to Christ's ministry. While many think of a harvest only in terms of a resurrection at the end of the age (Matthew 13:30; Revelation 14:15), Scripture speaks more broadly of ongoing harvests. Notice Christ's words in John 4:35, 38:
Do you not say, "There are still four months and then comes the harvest"? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! . . . I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.
Jesus, surveying the Gentile Samaritans around His location at Sychar, judged that the area was ready for a harvest—not one that involved physical death and resurrection but a gathering of people bearing fruit as a result of the implanted word preached to them. He perceived that spiritual growth was already taking place. He sent the disciples to "reap," symbolic of the teaching and works He commissioned them to perform (compare Matthew 9:35-38; 10:1-42; 11:1; Luke 10:1-20).
In the Parable of the Growing Seed, Jesus likewise shows the immediacy of a harvest as soon as grain ripens:
And He said, "The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come." (Mark 4:26-29; emphasis ours)
Similarly, the New Testament speaks of firstfruits in the present tense, indicating a harvest already in process. In I Corinthians 16:15, Paul mentions "the household of Stephanas" as being "the firstfruits of Achaia." Romans 16:5 highlights "Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ." These believers were the early part of a spiritual harvest taking place in western Greece.
James 1:18 confirms this present-tense usage: "And it was of His own [free] will that He gave us birth [as sons] by [His] Word of Truth, so that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures [a sample of what He created to be consecrated to Himself]" (The Amplified Bible). Those in Christ are already part of a spiritual harvest due to baptism, which itself symbolizes death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12). Certainly, a harvest will occur at the end of the age, but the gospels and epistles show the harvest symbolism beginning during Christ's ministry.
As we saw in Part Three, the leavened loaves declare that our service and duty to each other is tainted simply because we have not yet put on incorruption. Among God's servants, there have always been differences, some of which are merely different ways of doing things (see I Corinthians 12:4-6), but others of which have given way to division and even hostility. For example, the disciples argued about who among them would be greatest, a matter that arose at least twice (Luke 9:46; 22:24). They preached the gospel, healed people, cast out demons—served their fellow man, as the grain offering portrays—but also jostled for dominance. Striving for preeminence always leavens relationships (see Philippians 1:16; 2:3; James 3:14-16; III John 9), for it reflects the defining image of Satan, the adversary (Isaiah 14:13-14).
Striving aside, the disciples also differed in their approaches. One was bold and impetuous, a couple wanted to call down fire from heaven, and others were apparently unobtrusive, with less written of them. Yet all of them forsook their perfect Friend for a time, failing to give the loyalty they owed that righteous Man—their symbolic grain offerings fell far short with regard to Him. But the High Priest could still use their flawed works because God accepted the leavening in conjunction with Christ's perfect work as Priest and the epitome of the burnt, sin, and peace offerings.
In the two loaves, the Pentecost offering contains the idea of difference, while the New Testament Pentecost in Acts 2 shows differences being divinely overcome in the church, even as the two loaves comprised a single offering. In Acts 2:1, the apostles were all of one accord and in one place. They were different people but one in purpose.
Because God accepted them (see Ephesians 1:6), He gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit. His gift included the gift of languages, which overcame the language barrier—a significant difference—and reversed in the church the confusion and scattering of Babel (see Genesis 11:7-9). God's Spirit also gives unity to those who are led by it (Ephesians 4:3). This unity is not perfect yet, but it is still superior to what we could ever achieve on our own.
In Acts 2:41, three thousand people became reconciled to God in a single day. In Acts 2:44-47, members of the young church freely gave to those in need. They continued daily with one accord, breaking bread from house to house, eating with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God. In other words, they imitated Christ's burnt and peace offerings after accepting His sin offering. This extraordinary example shows what is possible when our High Priest works to make imperfect labors with manifest differences acceptable to the Father. But it necessitates Christ supplying His own labors, for without Him, our spiritual efforts achieve nothing (John 15:5).
David C. Grabbe