The Importance of Being
Throughout the Bible we read of the importance of being the firstborn son. For, in Israel, the firstborn son was given twice as much of the inheritance as the rest of the sons. This isn’t true of firstborn daughters, because it was assumed that they would marry and become sharers in the inheritance of their husbands; that way inheritances wouldn’t be combined. However, where no sons were born into a family, the daughters could receive an inheritance of land, as long as they didn’t marry.
Another unique feature of being the firstborn son (shortly after the Israelites left Egypt), is that they belonged to God. For, notice what we are told about this at Exodus 13:1, 2, ‘Then Jehovah told Moses, All the first-fathered and firstborn that open any womb among the children of Israel, whether man or animal, are to be set aside as holy to Me, for they are Mine.’
So, not only the firstborn humans, but also the firstborn of their cattle belonged to God. But what did this mean?
Well, in the case of the cattle, they were to be offered as sacrifices to Him. However, what they were to do to the firstborn sons and how they were to be offered was originally unclear. At first, the Israelites had to buy back their firstborn sons, by contributing at the sacred Tent in the desert. For we are told at Exodus 13:13: ‘And you must buy back (ransom) every firstborn son.’
Abraham had provided the ‘type’ of what was really needed when he offered to sacrifice his firstborn son Isaac. However, the thought of killing an innocent person was repulsive to God, so this is the reason why firstborn animals were sacrificed in place of humans… their sacrifice pictured the need for God to sacrifice His firstborn son to buy back humankind from sin and death.
Later on, God made a change that allowed the Priesthood of Israel to take away the need for all firstborn sons to be repurchased, when he made the descendants of Levi (the Priests) the firstborn in place of those of the rest of the sons of Israel. For at Numbers 3:11, 12, we read, ‘Then Jehovah spoke to Moses and said, Look, I have chosen the Levites from among the children of Israel [to take the place] of [the rest of] the [firstborn] males that are among the children of Israel. [The Levites] are their ransom, and they are Mine.’
So, whereas the special privilege of belonging to God was once offered to the firstborn of all Israel, thereafter, those who weren’t necessarily literal firstborn became His firstborn. And all of this has importance prophetic significance.
If a person believes that Jesus was the same person as God (the Father); if they believe that Jesus was just a man; or if they believe that he first came into existence when he was born on earth; that person is missing out on the true meaning and significance of being the firstborn. For, it’s a fact that all the laws and promises of the firstborn of man, animals, and crops showed how God was going to offer His most-loved firstborn (first generated) son. The Bible is so clear on this, for notice what we are told in the following scriptures:
Despite all the clear indications of the true meanings of the scriptures listed above, some choose to argue the interpretation of a few words, such as the meaning of the Greek words prototokos (found at Colossians 1:15) and monogenea or monogenes (as found at John 1:18). They say that these words speak, not of Jesus being God’s first created in heaven, but of his being the firstborn human son on earth (through Mary). And for a fact, these words could be interpreted that way, were it not for all the other scriptures that clarify their meaning.
Take for example, the rendering of Colossians 1:15, for there it reads: ‘He’s … the firstborn of all creation.’ And yes, the word that is translated as firstborn is taken from the Greek word protokos, which literally means first taken, as in birth. In fact, wherever the word firstborn appears in its Greek form throughout the Bible, it is translated from some form of prototokos.
However, notice that Jesus was spoken of as ‘the firstborn of all creation,’ not as ‘the foremost of all creation’ (as some claim it means). And since the Bible constantly speaks of things in the terms that humans can recognize, speaking of Jesus as having been ‘born’ or ‘taken’ is clearly in line with his being the first creation of God (not by a human or spiritual mother, but as the first creation by God).
Yet, Jesus was also the first human to be conceived by God. And this is the argument that some present when it comes to the wording of John 1:18, where Jesus is called (in this Bible) the ‘only-generated God,’ or in Greek, monogenes theos (one/generated god). Genes (or egenesen), for example, is the word that is used throughout Matthew 1:2-16 when speaking of the genealogy of Joseph, Mary’s husband, to describe who fathered or sired each of the ancestors of Jesus. So, isn’t John 1:18 speaking of God as fathering Jesus through Mary? No, for if it were, he wouldn’t have been referred to as a God (or powerful one), since he held no such position as a human on earth.
Yet, Jesus was fathered by God:
1. As His first-created son in heaven
2. As His first-born son on earth
3. As the firstborn of God’s Breath (Spirit)
4. As the firstborn from the grave (in a resurrection to immortal life).
For, as Paul wrote (at Colossians 1:17, 18), ‘He was before everything and everything came into existence through him. He’s the head of the body of the congregation. He’s the earliest and the first one to be born from the dead, so that he would be first in everything.’
For more information, see the linked document, Who Was Jesus?
Yet, both the later prophecies and the ‘types’ of ancient Israel indicate that Jesus isn’t the only ‘firstborn of God.’ That there would be others is prefigured by the fact that all the Priestly tribe of Levi would belong to God as His firstborn, in place of the firstborn of the rest of Israel. In fact, that all the firstborn of Israel once belonged to God indicates that there would be a class (or classes) of firstborn that would be taken from among those who picture ‘the twelve tribes of Israel,’ or those who claim to be part of the ‘New Sacred Agreement’ with God, which Sacred Agreement was founded on the shed blood of Jesus. For more information, see the linked document, The New Covenant.
Recognize also, that within the tribe of Levi there were two major divisions. First, there was the line of Aaron (and Moses) who served at the Temple, entered the Holy Place, and offered the sacrifices on the Altar. So, this group of symbolic ‘firstborn’ seems to picture those who are taken to that which was symbolized by the Holy Place in the sacred Tent and Temple: heaven itself.
Then there was the rest of the tribe of Levi (or symbolic firstborn) who were also priests, but they lived near the people of Israel, where they served as teachers and judges… and they weren’t allowed to enter the Holy Place or offer sacrifices on God’s Altar. They appear to picture Holy Ones (or firstborn) who will live on and rule upon the earth. (For more information, see the linked document, God’s Promise of an Inheritance).
Paul spoke of a heavenly gathering of ‘called ones’ at Hebrews 12:22-24, where he wrote, ‘What you’ve approached is Mount Zion, the City of the Living God. It’s Heavenly Jerusalem, where there are millions of [God’s] messengers attending a convention… the gathering of the firstborn ones whose names have all been written in the heavens… and God is the judge over them all. [You’ve approached] the unseen force of those who are righteous and who have been made perfect; and [you’ve approached] Jesus, the mediator of a New Sacred Agreement, whose sacrificial blood speaks out even better than Abel’s did.’
So from the above, we can conclude that at least some of the firstborn will be called to heaven to live with Jesus… but what about the rest?
That there will be people who will live on the earth is confirmed by Jesus’ promise at Matthew 5:5 that ‘the meek will inherit the earth.’ And the fact that they would be called ‘the twelve tribes of Israel,’ is confirmed in Jesus’ promise to his eleven faithful Apostles that they would ‘sit on thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel’ (Luke 22:28-30).
However, God promised that the whole nation would serve as kings and priests… He promised this in several places throughout the Bible. For example, we read at Revelation 5:9, 10, ‘You deserve to take the scroll and open its seals, because you were slaughtered and you bought people for God out of every tribe, language, ethnic group, and country, with your blood. Then you made them rulers and priests to our God, and they will rule as kings on (gr. epi) the earth.’
Now, at this point we really aren’t sure whether all the faithful on the earth (symbolic Israel) will eventually serve as kings and priests or not; this will likely become clearer in the future. However, we are sure that many who are called the ‘firstborn’ will serve in that capacity.
Does this mean they are literally the firstborn of family lines? No, for the Bible shows that a person doesn’t literally have to be the firstborn of men to be the firstborn of God. Take for example, Jacob; his brother Esau was literally the firstborn, but Jacob was able to buy that right from his brother for the price of a bowl of stew. So in this case, the right of firstborn was purchased from another, because one appreciated it and the other didn’t. And that’s how (by showing appreciation) one can become the firstborn of God.
And, because of their faithfulness, many others in Bible history who were not literally the firstborn of their families were given the right of the firstborn by God, including some who were actually born close to last. An example of this was faithful Joseph, for his family line was given a double portion of tribes (Ephraim and Manasseh) in Israel. And later, David (who was the last-born son of Jesse) was appointed king of Israel by God, as was his son Solomon, who was far down the list of David’s sons.
That David was actually elected by God to be His firstborn is proven by the words of God as found at Psalm 89:27, where we read: ‘Then I’ll appoint him to be my firstborn, and put him above the kings of the earth.’
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