PentecostÖ.Many of us have heard of it. Some of us know it as a festival of the church. But where did it come from? And what does it mean? These are the questions that we are going to explore today.
You know, there was a time when I asked those questions. When I first heard of Pentecost I had no idea what it was or what it meant. The word Pentecost Ė is it Biblical? What does it have to do with worshiping God? Are we commanded to keep Pentecost? Was it a one-time event? Or something more? Does it have importance for me? Letís look into the scriptures to answer these very important questions.
These questions led me to search the scriptures for the answers. The answers I found were quite surprising to me; I bet they will be to you as well. Letís take some time today to study into the subject of Pentecost and its application to the New Testament Church.
Where Do We Begin?
Letís begin by going to the most familiar reference to Pentecost. From the pages of your Bible, in the book of Acts 2:1-12 we read the following, "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?"
The first thing that we notice about this day of Pentecost was that there were a number of miraculous events that took place:
The sound of a mighty wind
Tongues of fire resting on each of the disciples
The disciples being filled with the Holy Spirit
Speaking in tongues.
What Is Speaking In Tongues?
Now we need to understand something here. Speaking in tongues is not what some think it is. It is not speaking some unknown "language of angels". It was a miracle whereby God gave the disciples the ability to speak in foreign languages they had never spoken before.
Notice again, Acts 2:4-8, "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?"
Then in verses 9 through 11, the different languages of those present are listed. So, you see, these tongues were known languages, not some "unknown tongue." We see that the day of Pentecost was no ordinary event. This was no ordinary day.
Pentecost Means" Count Fifty"
Now before we go any further, I need to point out that in the original Greek in which the book of Acts was written, Pentecost means, "Count Fifty." You will need to remember that for later.
If you continue reading in Acts Chapter 2, what you learn is that right after this event the Apostle Peter preached his first inspired sermon, which resulted in the conversion of 3,000 people.
Pentecost is the Birthday of the Church!
But, what is its origin? And why were the disciples observing it in the first place? To answer these questions, we need to go back to the Old Testament, to the book of Leviticus.
The Feast of the Lord
In Leviticus 23: 1-2 we read: "And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, [Concerning] the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim [to be] holy convocations, [even] these [are] my feasts."
Letís notice something that Verse 2 is telling us. These Feasts that are later listed are the Lordís Feasts. They are not the Feasts of the Jews; they are not the Feasts of Israel; and they are not just the Feasts of the Old Covenant, either. They are Godís Feasts, not manís. God gave them and they explain the plan of salvation for all mankind!
Itís one of the greatest misconceptions of traditional Christianity today. Most believe that these are just Jewish Feasts, that they were just for people under the Old Covenant; but nothing could be further from the truth. These are Godís Holy Days that He gave for all mankind. They have great meaning for Christians today.
In verses 4-14 of Leviticus 23, it speaks of the first two of these Feasts, the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. In verses 10-11, we read something interesting that is going to lead us to the answer we are looking for.
The Wave Sheaf
Leviticus 23:10 states, "Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest unto the priest" and in verse 11, "And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it."
This was an offering given during the Feast of Unleavened Bread to begin the spring grain harvest in Israel. Now letís notice verses 15 through 21, "And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD. Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; [they are] the first fruits unto the LORD. And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be [for] a burnt offering unto the LORD, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, [even] an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the LORD. Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings. And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the first fruits [for] a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the LORD for the priest. And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, [that] it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work [therein: it shall be] a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations."
What can be learned from these scriptures are that on this day, during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, they offered the sheaf offering, which was counted as day number one, and they counted every day after until they came to day fifty. Day number 50 was the next of Godís festivals. Remember, Pentecost means "count fifty."
The Disciples Kept Godís Feasts
So, the reason that Jesusí disciples were all there together, and the reason that there were Jews from all over the ancient world gathered in Jerusalem is because they were observing this festival commanded by God in Leviticus.
What does this day mean? Why should we care? Well, before we can answer these questions, we need to learn more of what Godís word has to say about Pentecost.
Pentecost Called the Feast of Weeks and Feast of Firstfruits
In Deuteronomy 16:9-10, we read, "Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from
[such time as] thou beginnest [to put] the sickle to the corn. And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto the LORD thy God with a tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give [unto the LORD thy God], according as the LORD thy God hath blessed thee."
So, here we see this festival called the Feast of Weeks. It was called the Feast of Weeks because there were seven full weeks between the wave sheaf offering and the Feast day.
Then, we glean more in Numbers 28:26, where it states, "Also in the day of the first fruits, when ye bring a new meat offering unto the LORD, after your weeks [be out], ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work." In this verse, the Feast of Weeks is also called the Feast of First Fruits. The reason for this is that it celebrated the end of the spring grain harvest. The first harvest of the year consists of the "first fruits."
Therefore, we see that in the scriptures, this festival is referred to by 3 names:
1. The Feast of Weeks
2. The Feast of First Fruits
However, we see that all of these names refer to the same festival - Pentecost.
The Day the Law was Given
According to Jewish tradition, Pentecost was also the day that God gave the Law to ancient Israel. On this day, God Himself came down onto Mt. Sinai and spoke the Ten Commandments to the children of Israel. This same day, Israel entered into their covenant with God. You will find this recorded in Exodus, Chapters 19 through 24.
The same Feast day that Israel became Godís physical nation, the disciples became the Church and Godís spiritual nation.
Pentecost initiated the Old Covenant with Israel, and it also initiated the New Covenant with the Church in the New Testament.
The Two Loaves
So does Pentecost just commemorate the beginning of the Church or is there more to it? What should it mean for you and for me?
Remember back in Leviticus 23, we read about two loaves of bread that were given as an offering to the Lord on Pentecost. They were called "first fruits unto the Lord." Let's read it again in Leviticus 23:17-20, "Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; [they are] the firstfruits unto the LORD. And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be [for] a burnt offering unto the LORD, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, [even] an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the LORD. Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings. And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits [for] a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the LORD for the priest."
For us to understand the meaning of the day of Pentecost (or First Fruits) and its importance to us, we need to first understand the meaning of the loaves. What do they represent? Letís go to the New Testament for these answers. In James 1:18 it says, "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures." And also in Revelation 14:4 we read, "These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, [being] the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb."
You see, Christians are referred to in the New Testament as Godís "first fruits." The loaves represented true Christians, those who are Godís "first fruits" being offered up to God.
We who are Christians are to offer up our lives to God.
Romans 12:1-2 states, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
We Christians are to be living sacrifices. We are to live our lives as an offering to God. And in I Peter 2:5, we read, "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."
The way we live our lives, that is everything we do, is to be an acceptable sacrifice offered to God.
Christians: Godís Firstfruits
The Feast of Pentecost teaches us that true Christians, along with the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament, are Godís "first fruits." They are Godís first harvest of mankind to salvation in His family. The rest of mankind will be part of the final harvest after Jesus Christ returns and establishes Godís Kingdom on this earth.
Pentecost also commemorates the giving of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the Church.
New Testament Church Observed Pentecost
These are the reasons why God originally gave us this day. That is why the disciples of Jesus were observing the day and why the New Testament Church continued to observe it. You will find that in Acts 20:16, "For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost."
And you will also find it in 1 Corinthians 16:8, "But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost." You see, years after the beginning of the New Testament Church, the Apostle Paul was still observing Pentecost. These are the reasons you and I should observe it.
Why We Should Observe Pentecost
I have been observing the Feast of Pentecost and Godís other commanded Holy Days for more than 25 years. They have been a great blessing to my life. They have helped me to understand God and His Plan of Salvation more fully. They have also helped me to build a more intimate relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ our Savior by observing his commands. You too will experience these rich blessings by observing them. By observing Pentecost and Godís other Holy Days, you will learn more about our Savior Jesus Christ.
By keeping the Day of Pentecost you and I are celebrating the fact that we as Christians are part of the first fruits that God is harvesting to be part of His family.
I hope this article has been enlightening to you and has inspired you to do further study into Pentecost and Godís other Holy Days. If you do so, I believe you will begin to understand that the "Feasts of the Lord" portrays the steps in Godís plan of salvation for mankind and you will begin to see their great importance for Christians today. If you do, hopefully you will begin to observe these days and see what a great blessing they are to your life.