God called Moses in the wilderness in order to do a specific work with respect to his “firstborn.” The Scripture says,
21 And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’” (Exodus 4:21-23)
Recall that later, at the first Passover, Moses instructed all Israel to select a lamb for slaughter and to place some of its blood on the door posts and lintel of each house. Blood had to be applied there or else the death angel of God would strike and kill every firstborn person and beast in that household. Since none of the Egyptians observed this Passover every Egyptian household suffered death of their firstborns, both human and beast.
For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. (Exodus 12:12)
At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. (Ex. 12:29)
Immediately after this first Passover the LORD spoke to Moses saying, “Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.” (Exodus 13:2) After this Moses instructed the People:
11 “When the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and your fathers, and shall give it to you, 12 you shall set apart to the Lord all that first opens the womb. All the firstborn of your animals that are males shall be the Lord’s. 13 Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem. 14 And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand theLord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. 15 For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’ 16 It shall be as a mark on your hand or frontlets between your eyes, for by a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.” (Ex. 13:11-16)
Later, when Moses begins to expound God’s revealed laws to his redeemed nation he says, “You shall not delay to offer from the fullness of your harvest and from the outflow of your presses. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to me.” (Ex. 22:29) Later he says again, “All that open the womb are mine, all your male livestock, the firstborn of cow and sheep.” (Ex. 34:19)
Egypt is a “type of” (represents) the world in Scripture. Pharaoh represents Satan in the “parable” of the ten judgments upon Egypt (although Pharaoh represents God in the parable of Joseph feeding all the world during the seven year famine. Joseph himself is a type of Christ and a type of the overcomer in that parable). So, God’s passing over, or saving, the firstborn Israelites in the first Passover has prophetic meaning as well. In the past we have only considered that Passover related to spiritual salvation which comes by simple faith in the blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. Now, as we consider the fifteen or more regulations which God imposed upon observing Passover, we see that Passover really relates mainly to the firstborn. Passover does affect everyone else in the household as well, though, because they are kept safe by the presence of the firstborn who believes in the efficacy of Christ’s blood (the lamb) and who obeys the Passover regulations. An example of this is seen in Rahab of Jericho. Everyone who gathered in her house, based upon her faith in the God of Israel (displayed in the red cord hanging from her window), was saved from slaughter when Israel killed every living thing in Jericho. The question we face today is who the firstborn represents with respect to our Christian faith.
Before Israel’s second Passover, however, the LORD does a very strange thing. He substitutes an entire tribe of Israel, the Levites, for all of the firstborn males of Israel.
5 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 6 “Bring the tribe of Levi near, and set them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister to him. 7 They shall keep guard over him and over the whole congregation before the tent of meeting, as they minister at the tabernacle.8 They shall guard all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, and keep guard over the people of Israel as they minister at the tabernacle. 9 And you shall give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are wholly given to him from among the people of Israel. 10 And you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall guard their priesthood. But if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death.”
11 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 12 “Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the people of Israel. The Levites shall be mine, 13 for all the firstborn are mine. On the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I consecrated for my own all the firstborn in Israel, both of man and of beast. They shall be mine: I am the Lord.” (Numbers 3:5-13)
Moses expounds upon this two more times in the book of Numbers.
14 “Thus you shall separate the Levites from among the people of Israel, and the Levites shall be mine. 15 And after that the Levites shall go in to serve at the tent of meeting, when you have cleansed them and offered them as a wave offering. 16 For they are wholly given to me from among the people of Israel. Instead of all who open the womb, the firstborn of all the people of Israel, I have taken them for myself. 17 For all the firstborn among the people of Israel are mine, both of man and of beast. On the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I consecrated them for myself, 18 and I have taken the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the people of Israel. 19 And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the people of Israel, to do the service for the people of Israel at the tent of meeting and to make atonement for the people of Israel, that there may be no plague among the people of Israel when the people of Israel come near the sanctuary.”
20 Thus did Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the people of Israel to the Levites. According to all that the Lord commanded Moses concerning the Levites, the people of Israel did to them. 21 And the Levites purified themselves from sin and washed their clothes, andAaron offered them as a wave offering before the Lord, and Aaron made atonement for them to cleanse them. 22 And after that the Levites went in to do their service in the tent of meeting before Aaron and his sons; as the Lord had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so they did to them. (Numbers 8:14-22)
6 And behold, I have taken your brothers the Levites from among the people of Israel. They are a gift to you, given to the Lord, to do the service of the tent of meeting.7 And you and your sons with you shall guard your priesthood for all that concerns the altar and that is within the veil; and you shall serve. I give your priesthood as a gift,[a] and any outsider who comes near shall be put to death.” (Numbers 18:6-7)
This idea of substitution is something we see time and again in Scripture for, as a rule, the actual firstborn child of a Biblical character is usually disqualified. Adam was the firstborn son of God, Cain the firstborn of Adam, Ishmael the firstborn of Abraham, Esau the firstborn of Isaac, Reuben the firstborn of Jacob, and Manasseh the firstborn of Joseph. David was the last born, not the first of Jesse, and David’s firstborn, Amnon, was rejected in favor of Solomon, the second son of David’s infamous treachery and adultery with Bathsheba. Every single one of these firstborn sons was disqualified for spiritual rule for one reason or another.
Finally, when we come to the Biblical record of Jesus, God calls him his “only begotten son,” forgetting Adam altogether (but remember, Adam is called a “type” of Christ; I believe Adam will be found to be an overcomer in the end). Later, the apostles Paul and John call Jesus the firstborn from the dead.
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by[f] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15-20)
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. (Revelation 1:4-5)
And now we come to the mystery. The Bible reveals that only two men exist in God’s mind concerning his creation, Adam and Jesus Christ.
45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”;[a] the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall[b] also bear the image of the man of heaven.
50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep,but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:45-55)
The typology of the “firstborn” thus shows that the concept speaks of Jesus Christ, not Adam. This is because the term “firstborn” is a spiritual concept, not a natural or fleshly one. Adam was the firstborn after the flesh. Jesus is the firstborn after the spirit. He is the firstborn from dead flesh. This explains why God substituted the Levites for the natural firstborn Israelites. The Levites were chosen to do the spiritual work for Israel. As such they demonstrate those who faithfully follow and obey God. The Levites typify overcomers according to the following passage:
3 “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lordwhom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to theLord.[a] 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.
5 “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:1-5)
But, Scripture just as clearly shows that not all Levites become overcomers either. Read Ezekiel 44 in its entirety to see this. The following passage describes the faithful Levites:
15 “But the Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept the charge of my sanctuary when the people of Israel went astray from me, shall come near to me to minister to me. And they shall stand before me to offer me the fat and the blood, declares the Lord God. 16 They shall enter my sanctuary, and they shall approach my table, to minister to me, and they shall keep my charge. 17 When they enter the gates of the inner court, they shall wear linen garments. They shall have nothing of wool on them, while they minister at the gates of the inner court, and within. 18 They shall have linen turbans on their heads, and linen undergarments around their waists. They shall not bind themselves with anything that causes sweat. 19 And when they go out into the outer court to the people, they shall put off the garments in which they have been ministering and lay them in the holy chambers. And they shall put on other garments, lest they transmit holiness to the people with their garments. (Ezekiel 44:15-19)
Scripture makes no mistakes. These Levites are the sons of Zadok for a reason… they are priests of the Order of Melchizedek, just as Jesus was. See Hebrews 5-7. These priests described in Ezekiel 44 are the firstborn of creation after Jesus. They are the firstfruits unto God who are “made alive” (given glorified bodies) according to Paul:
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15;20-26)
Now we can see that the feast of Passover primarily relates to the firstborn of creation, God’s overcomers. They are the ones who fulfill Passover by not only applying the blood of Christ to their lives by believing in him (faith), but also work out their salvation by obeying the other Passover regulations we have already discussed and will be discussing in more detail.