THE FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD
Following the day of Passover, seven days of unleavened bread are observed. Anciently, because the Israelites left Egypt with haste, they were commanded with the Passover sacrifice to eat unleavened bread with bitter herbs. Then they were to put away all the leaven from their houses. “Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.” (Exodus 12:15)
Christ’s sacrifice is “our Passover”; when we partake of Him, we eat unleavened bread. The bitter herbs eaten at the Passover with the unleavened bread signify the bitter experience every believer must go through. What did the leavened bread signify? We are commanded to purge out the leaven from our lives by the apostle Paul. But like the Passover lamb was a shadow of Christ, the leaven was also symbolic. “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of purity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:7-8)
In the beginning of Christ’s ministry, in preparation for Unleavened Bread, He removed the leaven of profiteering from the sacrifices to symbolize His death. For He “found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.” (John 2:13-16)
The first and last days of this annual feast were sabbaths where no work except food preparation could be done. The bitter herbs with the unleavened bread when partaking of the Passover lamb was to symbolize the bitter experience every believer must be enjoined to that we might be crucified to sin. To leave Egypt, to leave their homes, to leave their carnal pleasures, to leave behind sin to some may be a bitter experience, but to taste deliverance, it must be so. “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:33)
On the first festal sabbath out of Egypt, it looked forward to the time when Christ rested in the tomb after being crucified. He had cried “It is finished!” and ceased from all of His work. To eat unleavened bread seven days after partaking of the death of the Passover Lamb, signified a perfect number. Seven was the number of the promise of the covenant. In Hebrew [the word “shabba”- meaning sevenfold oath], it signifies the whole or complete promise that is sworn upon one’s life. Therefore, if we would partake of Christ’s sacrifice, it requires an entire sacrifice; the whole heart; the whole life; that we might cease from sin, having put it out of our lives, “making an end of sins, finishing the transgression, and making reconciliation for iniquity”. You cease to belong to Egypt, and you are now a possession of the Lamb that was slain, “ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20) “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19).
Since Firstfruits was not actually a separate feast from Unleavened Bread, it will be mentioned in connection with this feast. Anciently, this feast was on the second day of the Feast, after the first day, which was a Sabbath. This would be the day in which they crossed the red sea, and Pharaoh and his chariots were drowned. Thus, the Israelites who crossed the gulf between Egypt and the holy mountain at Sinai were symbolically the firstfruits to God of the nation of Israel.
On this day, the priest would take a sample of the harvest, the firstfruits from the sickle, and wave it before the God of heaven. “Speak to the children of Israel, and thou shalt say to them, When ye shall enter into the land which I give you, and reap the harvest of it, then shall ye bring a sheaf, the first-fruits of your harvest, to the priest; and he shall lift up the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you. On the morrow of the first day the priest shall lift it up.” (Leviticus 23:10-11 BES) This would also commence a fifty day count until the Feast of Pentecost, which we will speak more on later.
When this firstfruits of the harvest was accepted before God, the rest of the harvest was assured to the people of Israel. What happened on the day of Firstfruits prophetically? The first day, the sabbath of the feast (which was also a seventh-day Sabbath on the year of the crucifixion) Christ rested in the tomb. On the next day when three women came to embalm the body of Christ at the tomb, angels heralded that He was risen. “He is not here, but is risen…He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you…Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” (Luke 24:5-7)
Christ was risen on the day of Firstfruits. Paul the apostle tells us that Christ Himself was the Firstfruits: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” (1 Corinthians 15:20) Christ refers to this when He declares a parable regarding His death and resurrection. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” (John 12:24) It was necessary for Christ to die, and to be risen. He was the firstfruits of them that slept the sleep of death. Yet, true to form as when a grain of wheat falls into the earth, dies, and is rise up with many more grains on it’s body, when Christ resurrected, He was not alone when He was resurrected. “And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” (Matthew 27:51-53)
Even still, there is more to the prophetic significance of this time of Firstfruits.
After Christ was risen, and Mary came to the tomb, we are told that He appeared first bodily to her. When she had realized that it was Jesus, we are told that she would have embraced Him. Thus, would she have held Him back from a work that must be done on the day of Firstfruits, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” (John 20:17)Christ must ascend upon Firstfruits, that He might, as the Firstfruits of them that slept, be accepted as the unblemished sacrifice for man’s redemption. He further was fulfill the prophetic shadow of the work of the high priest, who would wave the sample firstfruits of the harvest before the God of heaven to be accepted of Him. Christ carried the resurrected bodies of many of the saints which slept in the dust with Him, and presented these before the Father. The Scripture tells us in a number of different translations the same fact, “When He [Christ] ascended on high he led a host of captives”(Eph. 4:8 NASB), “captivity captive” (KJV) , “a crowd of captives” (NLT), “lead out exiles” (Ps. 68:18 HEB), “he took the captives captive” (CSB) Christ presented before the Father the sample reward of the purchase of the great sacrifice which They had made to redeem man. This was the firstfruits of the redeemed of a much larger harvest to take place at the return of the Lord of the harvest. Christ is our resurrection; and this is the memorial of the day of firstfruits. Thus, the apostle’s summary of the importance of Christ as our firstfruits declares: “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)
For us, the Firstfruits is a celebration that the blood of the Lamb is accepted, and our redemption is sure. Even now, there are those, like unto us, who have been redeemed from all sin and the grave, offering praise and thanks before the throne of God in heaven.
UNLEAVENED BREAD CONTINUED
Upon the day of firstfruits, after the offering of the prophetic Firstfruits, Christ and the resurrected host, were presented before the Lord, the continuation of the feast of Unleavened bread was underway. We are told that He appeared to the disciples in the evening, when Firstfruits was ending, to instruct the disciples on the truth of His death and resurrection. “Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.” (Mark 16:14)
It was in his visiting the disciples on this feast, that He would remove the leaven of unbelief, and establish with “the unleavened bread of purity and truth” (1 Cor. 5:8) and “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself…And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:44-47)
For the remainder of the feast, and for forty days, He opened their understanding to the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God before He was taken up from their sight. “So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.” (Mark 16:19)
Leaven in the case of this feast is symbolic of the sin of the Egypt, and the sin of the world. It must be put out of the soul temple, or else the leaven of sin will have a corrupting influence on the entire character. Paul the apostle said that the leaven must be removed from the church, lest the church be converted to the world, and you must come out of the church! “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10)
At the end of the days, the churches have become so corrupted with the sins and teachings of the world, the people must come out of her. Yet for any who abide in these churches, the leaven will cause those who are joined to it to partake of her sins. The leaven of false teachings, as with the disciples, the leaven of sin and wickedness, the leaven of the love for this world; these things must cease from among us if we would be prepared to enter into perfection.
Christ would unleaven us from sin by the sacrifice He has made, and establish us in the purity and truth of His kingdom. If sin is not removed from the heart and life, God is not permitted to transform our lives. “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.” (Isaiah 44:22)
If sin is not blotted out, our names are removed from the book of life. The leaven of sin shall not enter into the courts of purity and holiness. “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” (Revelation 3:5)
Fear not little flock, He is well able to save you from sin, and to present you incorruptible before His throne of majesty clothed in His righteousness! He who redeemed you by the blood of His Son is well able “to keep you from falling” (Jude 1:24).