Your Answer:  The First Fruits

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New American Standard Version of the BibleThese are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. 5And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless. Revelation 14:1-5 (NAS)

Whether you believe that the 144,000 is a literal number being used in a sea of symbolic language...or whether you believe that 144,000 is also just a symbolic way of describing all of the bond-servants of God in that place, it is important to understand that this group was not the only group to be savedThey were only the first fruits.

First fruits:

The term first fruits was used many times in scripture to talk about the first of the fruits from a particular crop or harvest.  For example, if you planted a new orange tree, at the end of a year you might get a couple of oranges (the first fruits) but as time went on there were many more additional oranges to follow.

In Old Testament times, these first fruits (or beginning of the crop or harvest) were the ones given in sacrifice to the Lord.  First fruits is from the Greek word #536 aparche (pronounced ap-ar-khay'); meaning the beginning of sacrifice, i.e., the (Jewish) first-fruit (figuratively).

The 144,000 in Revelation 7:

As we saw earlier in the lesson, when  these 144,000 are first mentioned in Revelation 7, they are also identified as the first group (the first-fruits) of a very large group to follow:

New American Standard Version of the Bible"...saying, "Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads.  And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel." Revelation 7:3-4 (NAS)

"After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands...Revelation 7:9 (NAS)

"And one of the elders answered, saying to me, "These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and from where have they come?"  And I said to him, "My lord, you know." And he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."  Revelation 7:13-14 (NAS)

Examples of the Greek word "aparche" (first fruits) used in the New Testament:

New American Standard Version of the BibleRomans 16:5 -- "...also greet the church that is in their house. Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first (aparche) convert to Christ from Asia."  (NAS)

1 Corinthians 15:20 -- "But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits (aparche) of those who are asleep."  (NAS)

1 Corinthians 15:23-24 -- "But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits (aparche), after that those who are Christ's at His coming, then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power."  (NAS)

1 Corinthians 16:15 -- "Now I urge you, brethren (you know the household of Stephanas, that they were the first fruits (aparche) of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints)..." (NAS)

James 1:18 -- "In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we might be, as it were, the first fruits (aparche) among His creatures."  (NAS)

Comfort one another with these words:

If you were a Christian at the time the revelation was written, how important would it be to you to know that already some had gone before as first fruits to God and to the Lamb?  How important is it to know that these first fruits are not the entire quantity of those to be saved?

In the days of persecution of that time, the Christians in the city of Thessalonica were similarly concerned about how the resurrection of the dead would work for those who had already died...and those who would die in the future:

New American Standard Version of the BibleBut we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope. 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. 17Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18Therefore comfort one another with these words. 1Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NAS)

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