Yahweh has a specific timetable that He is following. That timetable is depicted by His feast days that are listed in Lev. 23. They are based on the literal agricultural harvest of Israel that is a type of the resurrection or harvest of souls (Mt. 13:24-30,36-43). The first stage of Israel's harvest takes place with the offering of the first of the firstfruits of barley (Lev.23:10,11) . That was fulfilled by Messiah's resurrection and ascension. The second stage takes place with the barley harvest itself. That harvest precedes the wheat harvest. It was fulfilled by the resurrection of many saints of old (Mt.27:52,53). The third stage is the offering of the firstfruits of the wheat harvest (Lev.23:17). That will be fulfilled by the resurrection at the sound of the seventh trumpet. At that time only the firstfruits of the harvest of souls in Messiah will be resurrected and offered up to Yahweh to fulfill the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost. Just as the waving of the sheaf in Lev 23:10,11 represented the resurrection and ascension of Messiah, so, too, does the waving of the loaves of Lev 23:17 represent the resurrection and ascension of the firstfruits of the wheat (believers) harvest. Since two loaves of bread were waved in Lev.23:17, each loaf is a separate stage of the resurrection. Therefore, the second wave loaf will be called stage four of the harvest. It will be fulfilled before the end of the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11 whereas stage three is fulfilled at the beginning of the seventh trumpet. Stage five of the harvest takes place at the reaping of the wheat fields (Mt.13). That will be fulfilled after the destruction of the wicked at Armageddon.
The Five Stages of the First Resurrection
1) First of the firstfruits of the barley harvest
2) The barley harvest
3) First loaf representing the firstfruits of the wheat harvest.
4) Second loaf representing the firstfruits of the wheat harvest.
5) The wheat harvest.
The parable of the wheat and the tares of Mt.13 deals with the entire wheat harvest whereas the Feast of Weeks deals with only the firstfruits of the wheat harvest (Ex.34:22). If the wheat harvest pictures the resurrection of all believers, then who do the firstfruits represent?
The Feast of Weeks is also called "the day of the firstfruits" in Nu.28:26. We can learn more about "the firstfruits" in Lev.23:15-21 where it deals specifically with the Feast of Weeks. In verse 17 of Lev.23 we are told that two wave loaves of leavened bread represent "the firstfruits unto Yahweh." Leaven is symbolic of sin. Therefore, these wave loaves represent people, not Messiah. In Rev.14:4, it says the 144,000 are the "firstfruits unto Yahweh and to the Lamb." If the 144,000 are also the firstfruits, then either one loaf equals 72,000 people or each loaf consists of 144,000 people totaling 288,000 believers. The latter is true; there are two groups of 144,000 believers representing the firstfruits.
Contrary to popular belief, the 144,000 saints pictured in Rev.14:1 are not the same saints pictured in Rev.7:4. To understand why this is so we must first understand why the 144,000 in Rev.14 are called "firstfruits unto Yahweh and to the Lamb" in verse 4.
The group in Rev.14:4 was not "defiled with women." What are women symbolic of in scripture? Babylon the great is spoken of as a mother that has harlot daughters (Rev.17:5). These women (the mother and her daughters) represent false religious systems. Therefore the 144,000 in Rev.14 were not defiled by false religions. This could only speak of the early assembly before corruption set in. This corruption was just beginning in the Apostle Paul's day since he spoke about wolves and false teachers within the assembly. This early group of 144,000 saints kept themselves pure and undefiled by that corruption.
They are called "virgins" in verse 4 which has an even deeper meaning than not being defiled by false religions. According to Lev. 21:10,13,14, the high priest was only permitted to marry a virgin of his own people. Yahshua is now Yahweh's High Priest. Therefore, his bride must be a virgin Israelite. Since this group of 144,000 are virgins and since they are from the early assembly that was comprised of only Israelites, they must be Yahshua's bride.
Yahshua was speaking to part of his future bride (his disciples) in John 14:2-4. They will be among the 144,000 of Rev.14. What is even more interesting is how a literal Israelite wedding is symbolized in Yahshua's prophesy. Reading from the "Aid to Bible Understanding," Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, Pennsylvania, 1969, pages 114,115; "As to the wedding itself, the central and characteristic feature was the solemn bringing of the bride from her father's home on the date agreed upon to her husband's home, in which act the significance of marriage as representing admission of the bride into the family of her husband found expression. ... The bridegroom took the bride to his house, or the tent or house of his parents." Yahshua, the bridegroom, will return to his bride's home, earth, and take her back to his father's house, in heaven, where they will spend seven years celebrating. Seven days was the usual time for an Israelite wedding celebration.
Now let's look at the 144,000 of Rev.7:1-4. The winds that are being held back represent the wrath of Almighty Yahweh that begins the Day of Yahweh. Since that is a future end-time event, this group of 144,000 is sealed about 1900 years after the group in Rev.14. The group in Rev.7 are alive in the latter days and the group in Rev.14 were alive in the Apostolic days (the former days).
There is another instrumental factor involved in the development of a successful harvest; that is, the former and latter rains. Without these two rainy seasons, the harvest would not be fruitful. Let's read a few verses concerning this.
Hos.6:3 - "Then shall we know, if we follow on to know Yahweh: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth."
Ja.5:7 - "Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Master. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain."
When the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the believers in Acts 2, it was the fulfillment of the former rain; the Holy Spirit being "living waters" (Jn.7:38,39). The former rain was instrumental in the development of the 144,000 of Rev.14. The latter rain will be poured out in the latter days and will be instrumental in the development of the 144,000 of Rev.7. That latter rain, incidentally, will be poured out on the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) at some point in the future. It will only be poured out on those obedient saints that are keeping that feast on the correct day.
There is one other scriptural reference to these 288,000 saints. It is found in 1 Chr.27:1-15. We know that Aaron, for example, was a "type" of Yahshua our High Priest; that the Israelite passage through the Red Sea was a type of baptism, etc. The 288,000 firstfruits are also the fulfillment of a type. They are the anti-type of that which is spoken of in 1 Chr.27. The captains and officers of verse 1 were to serve King David in any matter that arose throughout the year. This statement is fulfilled by that in Rev.14:4, "These are they which follow the Lamb wherever he goes." King David is a type of King Yahshua, the anti-type. Just as these servants in 1 Chr.27:1 served King David in all matters of his kingdom, the 288,000 firstfruits serve King Yahshua in all matters of his kingdom.
Verses 2-15 tell us there were 24,000 officers that served the king each month for 12 months (12 x 24,000 = 288,000). Two wave loaves with 144,000 representing each loaf = 288,000. King Yahshua has a government to run. His saints will rule with a rod of iron by his side (Rev.2:26,27; 12:5). The 288,000 firstfruits will be the highest ranking officers in that kingdom government. Everyone else resurrected in the main harvest will be reigning in a position of lesser importance in the kingdom (Rev.20:4).
In summation, Rev.14:1-5 is a vision of the first group of firstfruits to be resurrected. These saints were resurrected during the third stage of the first resurrection that is pictured in Rev.12:5. The fourth stage of the first resurrection will occur in Rev.14:14-16. Then the second group of firstfruits representing the second wave loaf of Lev.23:17 will be resurrected. This group includes the 144,000 that were sealed in Rev.7 and have since lost their lives at the hands of the beast.
For further study on this subject and escatology, please see the study on Revelation from which this study is excerpted.