David Grabbe, marveling that John, in the Book of Revelation, refers to Christ as the Lamb of God more than any other designation, examines the characteristics of the lamb. The significance of the Lamb goes back to the Passover instructions where God lays claim to all the firstborn. All firstborn of unclean animals, as well as human beings, must be redeemed by a lamb. God gave this instruction before He gave the holiness code and the instructions about the Sabbath. The redemption of the firstborn was no small matter to God. God required the firstborn of Egypt as a redemption for Israel's release. The original Passover was the redemption of Israel as God's firstborn. At this time, the price for the firstborn of Israel was a sacrificial lamb, not to atone for her sins, but to redeem her from slavery. God claims the firstborn males as His own. Jesus Christ's blood covers our sins and redeems us from the death penalty. Christ must redeem us from this body of flesh to completely reflect the nature of our Creator. We are in the process of being redeemed, but redemption will not fully occur until our resurrection. It is when we are completely redeemed that we will bear the image of the heavenly. The Lamb, described in Revelation 5:6-13 as having seven horns and seven eyes, is symbolic of our Redeemer, opening the title deed of His property—those whom He has called, saved, justified, and sanctified. All things are within His legal claim (including Israel and the Israel of God) as He exercises His fearful mighty power.
John Ritenbaugh, rehearsing our father Abraham's thought processes as he contemplated God's "I will" promises to him, concluded that Abraham realized he would be long dead before their fruition in the fullness of time. Nevertheless, he realized he needed those unspecified blessings applied to him, blessings that would apply to a descendant far greater than himself, a descendant which would be the source of the blessing—the Lord reincarnate, with whom Abraham had been communicating. Abraham realized that his descendant could not possibly be a mere human being, but the Creator Himself. Both Abraham and his descendent David reached the same conclusion, perceiving that fulfilment would be far into the future. Further, they both realized the promised seed (originally proclaimed to Eve, beginning a lineage from Seth to Abram, Isaac and Jacob) would be born into their family line. God promised Abraham that all peoples of the earth would be blessed by him, including those non-Israelite gentile peoples who would be grafted into the commonwealth of spiritual Israel though God's special calling, followed by receiving the Holy Spirit, becoming holy seed within the dynasty of Jesus Christ. No one is physically born into this family, but must be separated spiritually from the rest of the world by a special calling from God.
David Grabbe, cuing in on Genesis 1:1 and the Hebrew word translated "in the beginning," informs us that this is also the word for "firstfruits." God takes greater delight in a first fruit than those coming in a later harvest. Wisdom is a first-fruit, and has, itself, first-fruits, including the fear of Lord. The first-fruits were set aside for the priests who served the temple. The firstborn of a man's family is designated as first-fruits, receiving double honor. The physical nation of Israel was God's first fruits, planted to bear fruit, but sadly, like the cursed fig tree, it failed to produce much more than weeds. As Christ's called-out ones, we are the current crop of First Fruits, given a new spiritual birth. God has ordained that we bear spiritual fruit, in a totally different dimension from the first fruits of physical Israel.
David C. Grabbe: As we saw in Part One, when the prophet Samuel was sent to anoint one of Jesse’s sons, God says, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7). ...
Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting on the apostasy and diaspora of our previous fellowship in the 1990s, observes that those reveling in the new 'freedoms' cannot be persuaded to return to former beliefs because they no longer believe in the sanctified Word of God. Instead, many seek scholarly 'higher' criticism of the Scriptures to provide license to various varieties of sin. Like Thomas Jefferson's redaction of Scripture, modern biblical scholars, much further away (in time and understanding) from the original intent of the Scripture than contemporaries of the apostles, presumptuously pontificate, without accurate knowledge, on the intent of the Scriptures. Consequently, 'biblical' scholars, steeped in post-modernist deconstructionism, pick and choose what they pompously believe to be significant. Today, the main representatives of nominal Christianity (Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant) may believe God exists and may believe in various aspects of His character, such as omnipotence, omniscience, omnipotence, love, and grace; nevertheless, they do not want to do what He says, discarding the Old Testament (and much of the New Testament) and that 'horrible' Jewish Sabbath as well as God's commanded Holy Days. Unlike the majority of nominal Christians who believe in God, the First-fruits (a select group of individuals called and set-part by God), as depicted by the Holy Day of Pentecost, faithfully follow Christ's example, allowing God to knead, pound, shape, and bake them in the intense heat of trials, making them acceptable to God, with the goal of becoming the 144,000, redeemed from the earth who will follow Christ as His collective Bride. As we grow toward that goal, we are commanded by Almighty God to live a life of obedience to His Commandments, walking as Christ walked, practicing righteousness until we get it right, and knowing that faith without works is stone dead.
John Ritenbaugh indicates that we are being fitted as lively stones into an already formed Kingdom, being conformed to the image of Christ, who has been designated as the Cornerstone. As God's future priests, becoming living sacrifices, we will constitute God's department of health, education, and welfare, serving and helping humanity. The Israel of God becomes God's firstborn, being set aside as a chosen generation to help the High Priest, Jesus Christ. This role as Christ's assistants is what we are being prepared for, a role which will call for rigorous discipline. This rigor will enable us to be totally transformed from the inside out, bringing about a renewal of our minds and a change of character. We are appointed on men's behalf to deal with things pertaining to God. We will become the link between men and God. We will offer sacrifice, largely consisting of intercessory prayer. We have to have compassion, sympathy, and empathy with mankind, realizing the repertoire of our own weaknesses. Like Christ, we must learn from the things we have suffered, making us able to aid those who have been tempted. God has hand-picked or chosen us as forerunners because He loved us; we dare not squander this precious calling of training for the Royal Priesthood. The more we know God, the stronger and more insightful we will get, enabling us to build one another up in Godly love, thinking with the mind of the Father and Jesus Christ, with His Law written in our hearts.
The images that Jesus used to explain the spiritual birth of a Christian have confused many down through the centuries. John Ritenbaugh explains His use of "wind" and "Spirit," as well as the concepts of "Jerusalem above" and "firstborn" in relation to the born-again doctrine. The Bible consistently compares Christians to already-born and maturing children or adults.
John Ritenbaugh asserts that we keep the Days of Unleavened Bread, not just as a memorial of the Passover and Exodus event, but because of what the Lord did to bring us out of sin (typified by Egypt). What God does sets everything in motion, significantly eclipsing what we are required to do. God continually does battle for us, breaking down the resistance of Satan (typified by Pharaoh). While God compels us to make choices, He is with us all the way, leading us out of our abject slavery to sin into freedom and eternal life. It is God's calling that makes a difference; no one ever volunteers to follow Him. All that God did to get physical Israel out of Egypt into the Promised Land served as a type of what God does for us, calling us out of this world into the Kingdom of God. God is sovereign, necessitating that we diligently seek Him in order to be like Him, yielding to His sanctification, getting rid of all our false gods, worshipping Him in spirit and truth. As a branch attached or grafted to a vine, we cannot do anything without Jesus Christ, who alone enables us to produce or bear fruit through God's Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, and Christ's own Spirit dwelling in us. God is exclusively the God of His people and no one else.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that even though the Father and the Son work as one, they are distinctive Beings with separate functions. The Father is the source of all power, while the Son serves as the sole Mediator and the channel through which we interface with the Father. Through the Son (the Image, reflecting the Father's character and mind), we see the Father's power and wisdom. Jesus Christ is unique, serving as the divine link between God and man, intervening and negotiating on behalf of frail man with the full knowledge of the Father's mind and will. The ultimate goal of humanity is to know the Father and the Son, learning to live as they do. Only Christ has been composed of both divine and human natures, serving as Firstborn (having pre-eminence) of a special creation'one in which we are involved due to our calling. Hebrews 1-9 define His uniqueness as the Mediator (High Priest) between God and man, exalted over the angels, but nevertheless submissive to the Father.
It is a strange fact that the subjects of God's spring holy days and firstborns appear in the same contexts. Here is what this means to us.
John Ritenbaugh links inextricably the time frame for the covenant with Abraham (the Selfsame Day), the events of the Passover, the Exodus, the Night to be Much Observed, and the events of Christ's Passover meal with his disciples leading to his crucifixion. Clear connections relating to the bread and wine symbols, the ratification of the covenant, and the sacrifices are convincingly drawn. The mistaken inference made by some about a wavesheaf offering in Joshua 5 ignores the prohibition against a foreigner's grain (Leviticus 22:25), a blemished offering (Leviticus 23:12) and against animal sacrifices until peace could be established (Deuteronomy 12:11). The wavesheaf offering (Leviticus 23:15) is reckoned from the weekly sabbath within the Days of Unleavened Bread and not immediately before when an annual sabbath follows immediately.
John Ritenbaugh asserts that the S.P.S. (Specific Purpose Statement) of the entire Bible is "Let us make man in our image, according our likeness" (Genesis 1:26). To this end God has given us His Law, which serves as a map showing us the way of sanctification and holiness. Because God desires companionship of beings like Himself, He is in the process of reproducing the God-kind. The map showing the way consists of the Old and New Testament, works inextricable as law and grace and letter and spirit. As Paul's writings reveal, the Old Testament is in the New revealed while the New Testament is in the Old concealed. Contemporaries of John and Paul (and some deceivers this very day) have tried to throw out the Old Testament and the Law, replacing it with Gnosticism.
In Galatians 6, verse 16, the apostle Paul refers to the church as "the Israel of God." Why? Why not "the Judah of God," or "the Ephraim of God" or "the Galilee of God?" Why did God not inspire Paul to call the church by Israel's original name, Jacob—"the Jacob of God?" Charles Whitaker explains.
John Ritenbaugh warns us against blaming our sins on something other than ourselves. God holds us personally responsible for our part in any sin (James 1: 12-16). Joseph's example proves that even the most difficult temptation can be resisted and overcome, though this skill must be developed incrementally. Joseph's early preparation gave him the ability to make the best out of any situation. The conclusion of Joseph's story shows a remarkable metamorphosis in his brothers—from hardness of heart to softness and compassion. Like Christ, Joseph's integrity and steadfastness provided the conditions for his brothers' repentance and eventual reconciliation.
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