In the Philippines, as in other countries, great value, weight or importance is placed upon the firstborn child in the family. As the firstborn (eldest) son or daughter, the panganay (Tagalog) or kinamaguangan (Cebuano) is traditionally raised up to be a kind of surrogate father or mother to help take care of the younger siblings. This was the practice especially when Filipino families were large.
The kakâ, as Tagalogs address the eldest sibling in the family, often helps discipline the younger siblings. In some cases the kakâ is expected, or chooses, to help in supporting the schooling of their siblings. Some firstborn here have ended up becoming old maids or old bachelors while thus supporting their siblings and, in some cases, their elderly or sickly parents, too.
How does God look at the firstborn of man and beast? And how does God look at the “firstborn” in His divine family?
The beginning of one’s strength
In Genesis 4:3 Jacob speaks of Reuben, the eldest of his children: “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might and the beginning of my strength…”
God also has a family. He is raising up children — sons and daughters of God. For how can God reveal Himself as a “Father” if He has no children? And who is the “mother?”
Although He also was God (John 1:1), Jesus called God His “Father” (Matthew 7:21; 11:26-27; 15:13; 16:17; 20:23; 24:26; 29, 53; Mark 14:36; Luke 2:49; 10:21-22; 22:29; 23:34, 46; 24:48; John 2:16; 5:17; 6:32, 65; 8:19, 28, 49, 54; 10:29-30, 32, 37; 11:41; 12:26-28; 14:2, 7, 12, 20, 21, 23, 28; 15:1, 8, 15, 3, 24; 16:10; 17:1, 5, 11, 20, 24, 25; 18:11; 20:17, etc.).
This happened when the LORD of the Old Testament became born as the human Jesus through a miracle. The Spirit of God impregnated the human virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-58; 2:1-20, etc.). This was in fulfillment of the prophecy by Isaiah: “Behold, the [KJV, ‘a’] virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22-23). John 1:14 describes it this way: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory…” Theologians call this event the “incarnation.” [See: The True Christ and Peter Knew “The Holy One.”]
Thus Jesus was called “the Son of God” (Luke 1:35) and the “firstborn Son” of Mary (Matthew 1:25; Luke 2:7). As such Jesus is also God’s “Firstborn,” as will be made clear later.
John 3:16 further calls Jesus the Father’s “only begotten Son.” John 1:14 calls Jesus “the only begotten of the Father.” This is because no other human being has ever been born in the same manner Jesus was. More on this later.
As “head of the body [the Church of God],” Jesus is also called “the beginning, the firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1:18). Jesus is the beginning of God’s “strength” — God’s power to raise a divine family.
Romans 8:29 calls Jesus “the firstborn among many brethren.” These are they who, like Jesus, will be raised from the dead or changed to glory at Christ’s return (1 Corinthians 15:20-22, 50-55), as I will explain further.
And who did Jesus say are His “brothers?” Jesus said: “For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:50). Such a person shares true kinship with Jesus, who came to do the will of His Father (John 5:30; 6:38; Hebrews 10:7; Psalm 40:7-8). [See: The Comings of Christ.]
How do human beings become Christ’s brothers — and fellow-children of God? How do men come to have the power to do the Father’s will?
In Christ alone
Jesus said that no man or woman can come to have a family relationship with God the Father unless they go through Jesus Christ: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
But no one also can come to Jesus Christ unless it is the Father’s supreme will. “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…” (John 6:44), and again, “…no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father” (Verse 65).
This mutual condition in coming to God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ is reinforced by Jesus’ declaration:: “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27).
John 1:18 testifies: “No one has seen God [the Father] at any time. The only begotten Son [Jesus] who is in the bosom of [in close relationship with] the Father, He has declared Him.”
Incidentally, these Scripture passages prove that there are two distinct Persons in the Godhead. These also prove that the LORD of the Old Testament whom some people saw and heard was not God the Father but the One who later became Jesus Christ in the New Testament. These also show the “centrality” of Christ to man’s salvation. [See: The Trinity Doctrine Reconsidered and Just What Do You Mean –“Christ-centered?”]
Also begotten of the Father
The apostle Peter wrote, in 1 Peter 1:3-5, about the Church of God (true Christians): “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again [this time as spiritual children] to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away [referring to everlasting life or immortality] reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time [at Christ’s return (1 Corinthians 15:50-55)].”
Unlike Jesus, who is “the only begotten Son” of God (John 3:16; 1:14), Christians in this age are begotten by God the Father from purely human origins. Christians start life from a father and a mother who are both human, mortal beings. Jesus only had Mary as His human mother, but had God the Father beget Him, through His Spirit, as both the Son of Man and the Son of God. As with Jesus, Christians are begotten of the Father through His Spirit. And thus Christians are Christ’s brothers and sisters.
How do Christians come to be begotten as God’s children and Christ’s brethren? It all begins with God’s supreme will.
The apostle Paul shows that it is God’s sole prerogative to show mercy to whomever He wills (Romans 9:18). Because all of mankind have sinned and deserve to die (Romans 3:23; 6:23), their only hope is God’s mercy. Only by God’s mercy — by God removing the death penalty deserved by all sinners — and by God’s grace granting forgiven sinners the right to everlasting life, can sinners have a future. [See: Freed From Bondage and The Divine Prerogatives.] These are the ones who become begotten of the Father as the children of God and Christ’s brethren.
God showed His mercy by sending His only begotten Son Jesus “…for the suffering of death…that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone…For both He who sanctifies [Jesus] and those who are being sanctified [Christians] are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren…” (Hebrews 2:9-12).
True Christians in this present age not only are Christ’s brethren. They also, like Jesus, constitute God’s “firstborn,” as we will explain further.
It is the prerogative of God the Father and His Son to decide who will, and do, become the firstborn children in God’s divine, spiritual family. It is the same with the human family: who becomes the firstborn child (the first to be born) of a man and a woman is fully God’s decision and act. A man cannot decide, nor control, which among the millions of his sperm cells will singly fertilize the ovum in his wife’s womb that will turn out to be their firstborn child.
Thus also is the case with the second-born, the third-born, etc. among the children in a family. The parents — much more the children born — have no say as to the order of the children’s birth. A second-born or a third-born child cannot with good reason question God or their parents why he or she is not the first to be born. The situation is not within any human being’s control. It’s all up to God to decide this. [See: Predestination and Are We All God’s Children?]
How God regards the firstborn
The firstborn of both man and beast is so important to God that He claims the firstborn to be His own. God told Moses: “Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine” (Exodus 13:2; see also 22:29-30; Number 3:13; 8:17).
In the larger scheme of things, however, God calls the whole nation of Israel His firstborn. “Israel is My Son, My firstborn” (Exodus 4:22).
In the New Testament, the members of the Church of God whom Paul wrote to is called “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). This does not mean that the Church has now replaced Israel as God’s people, or that the physical nation of Israel doesn’t matter to God anymore.
Paul’s analogy of Israel as an olive tree of God’s planting shows that, while God has lopped off some of the branches of the natural tree [disobedient Israelites] and has grafted in branches of a wild olive tree [faithful Gentiles] to the natural olive tree, God has still retained the remnant of the natural children of Israel as His “firstborn.” With and in Christ non-Israelites (Gentiles) can now, through God’s Church, become a part of the commonwealth and household of Israel (Romans 11; Ephesians 2:14-22) — God’s firstborn. [See: God’s Kingdom and Israel.]
The role of the firstborn in God’s kingdom
Hebrews 12:23 talks about “the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven.” While Jesus Christ is the “firstborn from the dead” and “the firstborn of every creature” (Colossians 1:15, 18), His brethren (both from Israel and from Gentiles) are also God’s “firstborn” children. Thus the “church of the firstborn” certainly refers to them also. [See: What Happens to Man After Death?]
The Bible reveals that, besides the nation of both physical and spiritual Israel, God claims other groups and persons as also His “firstborn.” These are: 1) the Levites (Numbers 3:12, 41, 45; 8:16, 18); 2) King David (Psalm 89:20-29; and 3) Ephraim (Jeremiah 31:9).
From the Levites [descendants of Levi, one of the 12 sons of Jacob or Israel] came the children of Aaron, who have been chosen by God to serve as priests in His tabernacle and, later, His temple (Exodus 28:1; 29:9; Leviticus 1:8; 1 Kings 4:1-2, 4; 2 Chronicles 23:4; Ezra 1:5; Hebrews 5:1-4). God later took the Levites as His firstborn instead of all the firstborn of Israel (Number 3:12, 41, 45; 8:18). As such the Levites will serve in God’s temple during the reign of Christ on earth (Malachi 3:3; Ezekiel 44:10-31). [See: The Temple in Ezekiel 40-48.]
David, the second and greatest king of the nation of Israel, was a man whom God called “a man after My own heart, who will do all My will” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). God has promised that David will be the highest of kings from among men, and will be king over all the children of Israel forever in God’s kingdom — a prince under Jesus Christ as King of kings (Ezekiel 34:22-24; 37:21-25; Revelation 19:11-16). [Yes, much as her enemies now would like to see her dead, the nation of Israel will remain and thrive then!]
Joseph’s second son, Ephraim, has God’s blessing through his grandfather Jacob, the blessing of being the chief inheritor of Israel’s name and the birthright blessings of Jacob (from Isaac and Abraham). This took place shortly before Jacob died, an event recorded in Genesis 48:11-21. Jacob later pronounced more specific blessings upon Joseph and his descendants (Genesis 49:22-26).
[For more details on how this blessing — and prophecy — about Joseph has worked out down through the centuries, see this link: http://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets” and scroll down to the book titled The United States and Britain in Prophecy. See also: God’s Kingdom and Israel.]
It is no coincidence that the Church of God in this age as God’s firstborn will serve — like David and the Levites — as “kings and priests” in the kingdom of God which Jesus Christ will establish on this earth at His return. Revelation 5:9-10 testifies that those whom God has now redeemed through Christ’s blood as His firstborn have been [or will be made] “kings and priests to our God, and [they, as some texts render it] shall reign on earth.” Revelation 1:6; 3:21; and 20:4 support this.
As priests, God’s glorified “firstborn” [then made immortal] will help Jesus teach God’s law to the surviving mortals who will be the subjects of God’s kingdom on earth. Malachi 2:7 declares the function of God’s priests: “For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge [of God] and people should seek the law [of God] from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.” Isaiah 2:1-4 shows how God’s firstborn will help rule the nations through God’s law. [See: World Peace — At Last!]
Interestingly, God’s intent for the children of Israel was that they be to God “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). But that only if they would indeed obey His voice and keep His covenant (Verse 5) — which they failed to do. That is why God is, instead, working with, and through, a spiritual “Israel of God” — the Church of God — as now His “firstborn.”
Another interesting prophecy is declared by God through Jeremiah concerning the Levites and David: “As the host [stars] of heaven cannot be numbered, nor the sand of the sea measured, so will I multiply the descendants of David My servant and the Levites who minister to Me” (Jeremiah 33:22).
This is a promise similar to that which God had made much earlier to Abraham: “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them. So shall your descendants be” (Genesis 15:5). And “…blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore” (Genesis 22:17). Genesis 13:16 adds: “And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered.”
We see here a convergence of God’s promises to Abraham and to David and Levi being fulfilled together. To what purpose?
God’s purpose, made possible through Jesus Christ as “captain of their salvation,” is to bring “many sons [and daughters, too] to glory” (Hebrews 2:10) — to everlasting life and immortality. Romans 2:6-7 says that God “‘will render to each one according to his deeds’: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor and immortality.”
As I will explain, God’s firstborn will have an important role in expanding God’s divine family.
The “mother” of God’s firstborn
Galatians 4:26 ascribes to “the Jerusalem above” who “the mother of us all” is — the mother of all of God’s people now begotten by God the Father as His “firstborn.” Hebrews 12:22 elaborates on “the Jerusalem above” as the heavenly “Mount Zion,” “the city of the living God,” “the heavenly Jerusalem.”
Revelation 12:1 pictures this “mother” as “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars [symbolizing the 12 tribes of Israel].” The Roman Catholic Church has seen this “woman” as picturing Mary, the physical/biological mother of Jesus, based on reference to the woman’s “Child” (Verses 2, 4-5). However, Verse 17 speaks about “the rest” of the woman”s “offspring” as the “saints” — the Church of God (Revelation 14:12). This shows this “woman” to be a spiritual rather than a physical mother.
True Christians are the “brethren” (or “brothers”) of Christ not because they are children of “Mama Mary,” but because they are the children of that “woman” in Revelation 12 — the “heavenly Jerusalem,” the “Jerusalem above…which is the mother of us all” (Hebrews 12:22; Galatians 4:26). [See: Are We All God’s Children? and Mary Worship.]
The Church — Jesus’ “bride”
While the Bible talks about God’s people and true Christians as Christ’s “brethren,” Ephesus 5:22-32 compares Jesus to a husband, and the Church to a wife. Here Paul admonishes husbands to treat their wives as Jesus treats the Church, and wives to respect their husbands as the Church looks to Jesus as “Lord.” Paul describes as “a great mystery” the relationship between Jesus and the Church, especially here as between Jesus being the Head, and the Church being the “body” (Verses 28-31; compare with Colossians 1:18). 1 Corinthians 12 expounds on this analogy.
It would seem incongruous that Jesus would “marry” His own brethren. This seeming discrepancy would be dispelled if we looked at Ephesians 5:22-32 as a different analogy to illustrate the close relationship between Christ and the Church. Jesus and the Church are “brethren” because they are both the children of God the Father through “Jerusalem above” as their “mother.”
Paul compared the New Testament Church to a “virgin” that he strove to make a “chaste” one before Christ’s return (2 Corinthians 11:2). Matthew 25:1-11 compares the Church to “virgins.” Revelation 14:4 describes “virgins” as people who “were not defiled with women” and will be with Christ wherever He goes. “Women” here refers to spiritual “harlots” — chief of whom is “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS,” with her harlot “daughters” (Revelation 17:1-6, etc.). [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!“ and Drunk With Strange Wine.]
When we re-examine the evidence in the Old Testament, we will see that Christ being the “Bridegroom” to the Church of God as His “bride” or “wife-to-be” is not a new concept. It is actually a carry-over of what the LORD of the Old Testament was to the nation Israel.
The LORD of the Old Testament [who later became Jesus Christ of the New Testament] had been “married” to the nation Israel. He tells that nation: “‘Return, O backsliding children [Israel, Verse 12],’ says the LORD, ‘for I am married to you‘” (Jeremiah 3:14). Ezekiel 16 elaborates on how God worked this out, and how Israel dealt unfaithfully with God as her “Husband.” Isaiah 54:5 shows the LORD, Israel’s Maker, as also her “husband.” The book of Hosea also treats of this relationship.
Interestingly, the LORD addresses the nation Israel as His “children” to whom He is “married.” How can this be?
The LORD as “Father” and “Husband” to Israel
In Jeremiah 31:9 the LORD told Israel, through the prophet: “For I am a Father to Israel…” How did the LORD become a “Father” to the people of Israel?
In Deuteronomy 32:6 God’s servant Moses told the assembly of the children of Israel (31:30): “Do you thus deal with the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is He not your Father, who bought you? Has He not made you and established you?”
The above verse shows that the LORD became Israel’s “Father” because He had “bought” them and had “made” and “established” them as His people or nation.
The LORD “bought” the children of Israel when He redeemed or “ransomed” them from the “house of bondage” — from their slavery in Egypt. This is how the LORD named Himself to Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Exodus 20:2). This part of Israel’s history is recorded in Genesis 46 through Exodus 19. Isaiah 63:16 has the prophet praying on the nation’s behalf: “Doubtless You are our Father, though Abraham was ignorant of us, and Israel does not acknowledge us. You, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from Everlasting is Your name.” [See also Isaiah 64:8.]
When the LORD had brought the children of Israel out of Egypt and on to Mount Sinai, He struck a covenant with them there (Exodus 20-24). This covenant made them formally His nation and His children, and He a Father to them. The LORD became known as the “Maker” and the “Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 45:11, etc.). As Maker and Founder of the nation Israel, the LORD became the “Father” of Israel, in the same manner that we call the founder of an institution its “father.”
Galatians 4:21-31 explains that the Israel founded at Mount Sinai was “born according to the flesh.” And the people’s “mother” was the earthly “Jerusalem which now is [in the Middle East], and is in bondage with her children” (Verse 25).
Now, the question that is begged by Jeremiah 3:14 is: How can God be a “Father” to Israel and at the same time be Israel’s “Husband?” Wouldn’t this be some case of incest, which God forbids in His law (for example, see Leviticus 18)?
Firstly, we need to understand that God uses various human relationships to help illustrate the various levels or facets of His relationship with humankind and with a special people He calls His own. These analogies or “allegories” show the close and intimate relationship God wants with His people.
Secondly, these relationships are not on an individual and merely physical level. They have to do with God in relationship with a group — whether a family, nation or kingdom as a spiritual entity.
Thirdly, there are prerogatives that can only rightly be God’s and not man’s. For example, God commands all men not to commit murder (Exodus 20:13). But because He made all of mankind, God alone has the right to take human life — whether directly or through His human deputies. God, through His Spirit, begot His Son [Jesus] without the “benefit” of marriage to the virgin Mary. As Creator and Savior of mankind, God did this out of His love for all of us sinful men (John 3:16). Unbelieving Jews insinuated that Jesus was thus born of fornication (John 8:41). But God is supreme, and His purpose will stand (Isaiah 14:24, 27). [See: The Divine Prerogatives and Of Dungeons and Prisons.]
Since the Church of God has now become an extension of ancient Israel as now “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16), the Church is now the “bride” or “wife” of Jesus Christ (Revelation 19:7) as well. To this Ephesians 5:22-33 is relevant.
It would seem reasonable to think that the Lamb Jesus and the glorified Church of God as His “wife” will produce many more “children of God” who will comprise God’s “second-born” and “third-born.” [See: Predestination and This Is Not the Only Day of Salvation.]
In Revelation 21:9-21 is an enigmatic reference to the “great city,” “the holy Jerusalem” as the “Lamb’s [Christ’s] wife.” How different is this “wife” from “Jerusalem above” (Galatians 4:26) and “the heavenly Jerusalem” (Hebrews 12:22)?
As explained earlier, Galatians 4:26 Hebrews 12:22 and Revelation 12 speak of the same “woman” who is the “mother of us all” — the mother of God’s firstborn children. The “firstborn” of God includes Jesus as the “firstborn from the dead” and the “firstborn of creation” — with true Christians as also begotten of God the Father as Jesus’ brothers and sisters, and comprising the “church of the firstborn.” Since Jesus cannot be both the Son and His own Father, this “woman” or “mother of us all” would seem to be “wife” to God the Father.
Whose spiritual children were the Old Testament faithful?
Since Jesus became the very first of God’s “firstborn” children [and thus God’s new creation], how do we consider the men and women of faith in the Old Testament, when Christ had not yet been begotten and born of God the Father then? Are they also a part of God’s “firstborn” as Jesus is?
The Old Testament men and women of God did not know God the Father as the people in the New Testament did, and as true Christians have known Him since. Jesus said that He came to “declare” or make known the Father, whom human beings had never seen or heard before (John 1:18; 5:37).
However, Hebrews 11:35-40 assures us that, at Christ’s return, these Old Testament men and women of faith will obtain the “better resurrection” — resurrection to immortality or everlasting life — along with all faithful men and women of God after their time. As 1 Peter 1:0-12 says, the prophets of the Old Testament times — as we might assume the rest of all the faithful men and women then — had the Spirit of Christ in them. As such, they also belong to Christ and will be in that resurrection (Romans 8:9-11).
Although the faithful men and women of God in the Old Testament had not known God the Father as such, they knew the LORD who later became Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Jesus told His doubting disciple Thomas: “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also…” (John 14:7). In this sense, the faithful people of the Old Testament also knew God the Father.
In the same manner that the Old Testament men and women of God received forgiveness even before Jesus came to be sacrificed as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), so it would seem that God the Father “advanced” to them their begettal as His spiritual children and as a part of His “firstborn.” Romans 4:17 says that God “…calls those things which do not exist as though they did.” [See: Freed From Bondage, , especially the box titled “How did the Old Testament men and women of faith receive forgiveness, when Jesus Christ had not yet been sacrificed as the Lamb of God?”]
So, how do we understand Revelation 21:19-21?
The answer would become clear if we realized the distinction between this “great city” — “the holy Jerusalem” — and the Jerusalem of Hebrews 12:22 and Galatians 4:26. This “holy Jerusalem” of Revelation 21 is also called “New Jerusalem” which comes after “the first heaven and the first earth [the present ones] will have passed away, and a new heaven and a new earth will have appeared (Verse 1). [Incidentally, those who claim to have established or founded a “New Jerusalem” in this present age have done nothing but to “jump the gun” — thinking prematurely!]
This coming “New Jerusalem” will be different in some or many ways from what we might call the old “Jerusalem above” [of the “first heaven”]. As Revelation 21:7 puts Christ as saying: “Behold, I make all things new.” The “New Jerusalem” will forever have the names of the 12 tribes of Israel inscribed in the city’s gates, and the names of the 12 apostles of Christ in the city’s foundations. [See: God’s Kingdom and Israel.]
With the Lamb as the “Bridegroom” and the “New Jerusalem” as His “wife,” what could possibly be God’s purpose for them in the ages or eons to come? Speculate whatever we might, we are told to “judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes” and to not “think beyond what is written [in the Bible]” (1 Corinthians 4:5, 6).
However, Isaiah 51:16 — pondered by many — might speak volumes of God’s plan to “plant the heavens.” Out there in the vastness of the whole universe are countless stars, planets and other heavenly bodies, evidently without life as we know it on earth. Would God “plant” new life in them after this and the next ages of this earth are done? What, after all, are a bridegroom and a bride for if not to reproduce more of their kind?
Whatever the future may hold, it will be far, far more magnificent than we can possibly imagine. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9, paraphrased from Isaiah 6:4).
Firstborn also “firstfruits”
James 1:17-18 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights [compare with Matthew 5:14-16], with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” [See: What Does God Mean — “I Do Not Change?]
As in the case of the firstborn of man and beast, God claims the firstfruits of all plant produce [grain, wine and oil (Deuteronomy 18:4)]. In ancient Israel God’s people were to bring these firstfruits to God’s house (Exodus 23:19; 34:22, 26) and make an offering of them (Leviticus 2:12, 14; 23:10, 17-20; Deuteronomy 26:10).
Paul spoke of true Christians (God’s “firstborn” now) as those who “have the firstfruits of the Spirit” (Romans 8:23). In this letter Paul greets “well-beloved Epaenetus” as “the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ” (Romans 16:5). Revelation 14:1-5 describes the crowd of Israel’s 144,000 redeemed as “firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.” [For more understanding of the Bible’s teaching about the “firstfruits” see: God’s Feasts and the Jews — Part 2, especially the section on “Feast of Weeks/Day of Pentecost and the Jews.”]
God hates those who spurn their calling as firstborn
It is no casual matter, nor out of caprice, that God says, “Yet Jacob I have loved; but Esau I have hated” (Malachi 1:2-3, quoted in Romans 9:13). As the story is told, in Genesis 25:29-34, Esau [Jacob’s firstborn son, Verses 24-25] had the “birthright” promise. In God’s economy the firstborn gets a “double portion” of the family’s inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:17).
In a moment of distress, the tired and weary Esau succumbed to his brother Jacob’s wile. Esau lightly esteemed his inheritance due him as Isaac’s firstborn. He “despised his birthright” and, in his momentary hunger, he exchanged his precious heritage for a measly bowl of red soup.
Because of this God calls Esau a “profane” person. “Profane” means “showing disrespect or contempt for sacred things” (New World Dictionary). Malachi 1:3-4 adds that God calls what Esau received instead as “the territory of wickedness,” and Esau’s descendants as “the people against whom the LORD will have indignation forever.” Esau’s dwelling, as pronounced by Isaac in Genesis 27:39, is better read as “away from the fatness of the earth and the dew of heaven from above.” This is a curse instead of a blessing.
Likewise, God has stern words to the true Christians in this age — God’s spiritual “firstborn” — who ever spurn their calling and birthright like Esau did, in the face of trials. That is because, like the inheritance that Esau could have received had he not “sold” it, these Christians have a “double portion” of eternal inheritance awaiting them. After successfully overcoming and being humbled by the trials they experience in this present age (Acts 14:22), God’s spiritual “firstborn” will be “the greatest” in God’s kingdom (Matthew 13:1-5). [See: The Flaming Sword East of Eden.]
And, unlike the rest of God’s children to follow as “second-born” or “third-born,” God’s firstborn will have the unique privilege to assist Christ directly in changing the landscape of the earth and the hearts of men when He comes to establish God’s kingdom here. As Christ’s “wife,” the firstborn will serve as the spiritual “mother” of those to be “born” into God’s family during the 1,000 years of Christ’s reign, and after that period.
With one’s carnal self, with Satan and his demons tempting mankind to sin, and with a sinful, Satan-inspired society to deal with in this present age, “firstborn” Christians have great odds to overcome. But with God’s help they can, and will, overcome! [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience, The Higher Law of the Spirit, and Breaking Down our “Walls of Jericho.”]
But for those who, lacking true faith, fail to overcome these trials and decide to “bomb out” of God’s plan for them, these are the sobering words from Hebrews 6:4-5 — “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame” (see also Hebrews 10:26-31, and Why Is the “Unpardonable Sin” Unpardonable?).
God says, “Now the just shall live by faith, but if anyone draws back, [falls away], my soul has no pleasure in him” (Hebrews 10:38).
We would hope that Esau and the rest of humanity (whether firstborn or otherwise in their family) that have not really received God’s Spirit in this age — and may have failed in their role as the natural firstborn — will have their chance to be saved later. This would be during the 1,000 years of Christ’s reign on earth [called “the Millennium”] or after that period (Revelation 20:5). [See: Predestination and This Is Not the Only Day of Salvation.]
Make election sure
Those who have been called as God’s “firstborn” or “firstfruits” of God’s family and kingdom are also called God’s “elect” (Matthew 24:211-22; Romans 8:33; Colossians 3:12; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:2). [See: “The Next Chapter of History“ and This Is Not the Only Day of Salvation.]
God promises: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:55, quoted from Deuteronomy 31:6 and Joshua 1:5).
To those who are now called as the kakâ in God’s divine family, let’s not leave nor forsake God either!
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.