After Christ's death, the original apostles met and observed Pentecost (Acts 2) and the Holy Spirit was given to them. That is considered by almost all Christian-professing groups to be the beginning of the Christian Church.
This article will look at what the Bible, early and later Catholic sources, and also Church of God sources to discover what is taught about the Day of Pentecost. The next Day of Pentecost is on June 12, 2016, with the actual observation begins the evening before at sunset on May 23rd and runs through sunset May 24th.
Here is a link to two Pentecost related sermons: Pentecost: Feast of Firstfruits and Predestination and Pentecost.
The Hebrew scriptures are the first place that we learn about the Holy Day commonly called by a Greek term Pentecost, but we will start this article in the New Testament.
Towards the start of His ministry, Jesus spoke on the "day of the sabbaths" (Luke 4:16), often then called the Feast of Weeks, that we tend to now call Pentecost. That can be confirmed by looking at the actual Greek term, often simply mistranslated there as "Sabbath" singular. The actual word (not the Strong's grouping of like words), σαββάτων, is plural (σαββάτω, as in Luke 14:1, is singular). The passage is literally translated as follows:
16 And He came into Nazareth where He was brought up. And according to His custom, He went in on the days of the sabbaths, into the synagogue, and stood up to read. (Green JP, Sr. Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, third edition. Baker Books, 2002 printing, p. 187)
So, this helps show that one could keep Pentecost, as Jesus did, in a location other than Jerusalem (He also seemed to keep another holy day in Galilee in Luke 6:1-2; see Green, p. 194 related to verse 2).
After Jesus died, His disciples were told to wait to receive the power of the Holy Spirit:
4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me; 5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." (Acts 1:4-5)
8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey. 13 And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James. 14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. (Acts 1:12-14)
26 And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:26)
Notice what the Bible teaches:
1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place (Acts 2:1).
Notice that the emphasis is on the fact that the Day of Pentecost had fully come. The Bible is making it clear that the events that follow were directly related to the fact that the Day of Pentecost had fully come. And, it happened to the disciples because they were all observing it together.
Here is what happened next:
2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7 Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, "Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs — we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God." 12 So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "Whatever could this mean?"
13 Others mocking said, "They are full of new wine."
14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. 15 For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,Your young men shall see visions,Your old men shall dream dreams. 18 And on My menservants and on My maidservantsI will pour out My Spirit in those days;And they shall prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. 21 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.'
22 "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know — 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. 25 For David says concerning Him: 'I foresaw the Lord always before my face,For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad;Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. 27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the ways of life;You will make me full of joy in Your presence.' 29 "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. 34 "For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: 'The Lord said to my Lord,'Sit at My right hand, 35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."'
36 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."
40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation." 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:2-47).
They received some of the power of Holy Spirit. And this is considered to be the start of the Christian church by the Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, most Protestant, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Church of God groups. But, note, that the Holy Spirit was given at a certain time, the same time that many of the Jews observed Pentecost, and that Jesus' disciples were still observing it.
Speaking in Tongues?
Perhaps this would be a good time to reflect on one point that some misunderstand, and that is the relationship of the Day of Pentecost to the common idea of "speaking in tongues."
Here is some of what the late COG evangelist John Ogywn wrote about it:
Speaking in Tongues
The focal point of the Pentecostal movement (and now of the entire charismatic movement) is its emphasis on speaking in tongues, or "glossalalia"—a term derived from the Greek words for "tongue" and "speaking." But just what does the Bible mean when it mentions speaking in tongues? Is it identical to what happens in the modern charismatic movement?
The Greek word for tongue, glossa, is used primarily in three ways according to the Arndt-Gingrich Greek-English Lexicon. In one case it simply means the tongue, the organ of speech. In another it refers to a language. The third usage refers to a phenomenon found in pagan Hellenistic religion with the broken speech patterns of people in religious ecstasy (p. 161).
Speaking in tongues played a little-known role in ancient pagan religion. The concept of ecstatic speech, unintelligible to the hearers, was well known in ancient Greece. The shrine of Apollo at Delphi, a short distance from the city of Corinth, was the site of the most famous oracle of the ancient world. The priestess of Apollo would work herself into a religious frenzy and then fall down to the ground, often in a sort of convulsive fit, and come under the "possession of the god." While in this state she would babble unintelligible words (the language of the gods) that were written down and "interpreted" by the priests. Similar events happened at other oracles throughout the Mediterranean world.
Ecstatic speech in the ancient world, however, was not limited to priestesses at the oracles. When the Eastern mystery religions spread westward into the Hellenistic world, they also incorporated the phenomenon of ecstatic speech. It was deemed to be communion with the gods. Thus, the use of frenzied, unintelligible speech, called by the ancient Greeks "speaking in tongues," was well-known in the first century.
But is this at all akin to what the Bible describes? The most detailed account of speaking in tongues as a gift of God is given in Acts 2. There are several points that should be noted.
First, the phenomenon was manifested suddenly (v. 2). The words that began to pour from the mouths of the Apostles were not the result of an emotionally charged meeting. They were not working themselves up through frenzied music or the repetition of certain religious phrases. This was a miracle of God that came about instantly. Second, there is no mention of any of the Apostles falling to the floor "under the power," or of any of the other excesses that so often characterize modern Pentecostal meetings.
The emphasis given in Acts 2 is not one of putting on a show. Rather, it is one of delivering an important message. There were miraculous signs accompanying the message to authenticate it.
An important key that must be noted in Acts 2:4–12 is that the Apostles were not using so-called ecstatic speech. Instead, they were speaking in known languages that members of their audience clearly understood. This was the time of Pentecost, the second of the three annual pilgrim Festivals given by God to the ancient Israelites. There were Jews who had gathered in Jerusalem from all over the known world for this occasion—Jews who each spoke the language of his homeland.
It was not long before increasing numbers recognized their own native language (v. 8)—though initially some, who did not understand the particular language they were hearing, supposed the Apostles to be drunk (v. 13). Since this was a time before electronic amplification and public address systems, it is reasonable to suppose that the Apostles stood at some distance apart and faced in different directions, all preaching the same message but in different languages—languages known to the listeners, but unknown to the Apostles themselves! Those who understood a particular Apostle began to gather closer to him to hear what he had to say. Acts 2:14–42 emphasizes the content of Peter’s speech. He was not repeating the same catch-phrases over and over. Rather, he was relaying a vitally important message.
Of course, the mechanics of this special Pentecost meeting may have happened a little differently than the description just given—the Bible does not give a precise account. But this much is indisputable—Peter and the other Apostles were speaking in foreign languages that were intelligible to their listeners. Thus, the gift of tongues was a tool of evangelism.
Clearly God’s true gift of tongues differs vastly from what masquerades as that gift today. It is not uncommon for a hyper-excited, worked-up Pentecostal to sway, moan, "dance in the Spirit," laugh hysterically or shout out in unintelligible speech, or even meaningless guttural gibbering. How very different from the biblical example!
... The Apostle John exhorted his readers, "Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God" (1 John 4:1). What, then, is the true evidence of the Holy Spirit? God’s Spirit is only offered to those who believe the Gospel message that Jesus brought, and have truly repented as a result. They have unconditionally surrendered their lives to their Creator and have, therefore, begun to obey Him.
Next, there is fruit that the Holy Spirit bears in our lives. This fruit is described in Galatians 5:22–23 as love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. In other words, the Holy Spirit changes our lives and fills us with God’s love, which enables us to obey His holy and righteous law—showing evidence of His very nature within us (Romans 5:5; 13:10). (Ogwyn J. Charismatic Renewal and the Gift of Tongues. Tomorrow's World, May-June 2004).
He also wrote:
Paul emphasized in 1 Corinthians 14 that the gifts God gives are for edifying or strengthening the Church. He encouraged his readers to seek God’s gifts for the purpose of serving others—not for self-aggrandizement. As for tongues or languages, Paul explained that it was better to speak just a few words that were understandable and helpful, rather than ten thousand words in a language no one could understand (v. 19). For unless the content is helpful and instructive, words in and of themselves lack benefit to the hearers (v. 6, 9).
A prophecy in Joel 2:28–32 foretells an end-time outpouring of God’s Spirit in a miraculous way. Peter quoted this scripture and applied it to the miracle that occurred on the first Pentecost after Christ’s resurrection from the dead. It is apparent upon close scrutiny, however, that a much greater fulfillment of this prophecy is for the time just prior to the Day of the Lord (v. 31). Thus, many of the miraculous outpourings of God’s Spirit that happened in the first century will undoubtedly occur again in the end time.
However, from what we have seen, it should be clear that the "speaking in tongues" commonly practiced today in the charismatic movement—with its incoherent babbling often accompanied by uncontrollable shrieks and spasms—is most certainly not from God. "For," as Paul says in his discussion on tongues, "God is not the author of confusion" (1 Corinthians 14:33). Indeed, we may rightly discern that most of the "speaking in tongues" that goes on today has a different author—either demonic spirits or simply human imagination. For just as demons were involved in the pagan Greek religion of long ago with its babbling oracles (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:20), so also are they involved in false religion today...If the author of individuals’ ecstatic speech is the human mind, it is either an outright fraudulent act, some form of mental illness or simply a frenzy of human emotion.
True miracles, however, are not brought about by human emotion. They are, rather, the result of God supernaturally working through His true servants—those who genuinely obey Him and are yielded to His will. As mentioned at the outset, in the spiritual confusion of modern religion, many today recognize a great void in their lives. Without real understanding of God’s ultimate purpose and plan, they are accepting a counterfeit of true spirituality. They are pursuing a feeling—and are therefore setting themselves up to be deceived by the end-time false miracles of which Christ warned (Matthew 24:24). We should seek God and His ways—not feelings.
If we do so with all our heart and continue to genuinely walk with Him, the true miracles will certainly follow in God’s own time (Ogwyn J. Charismatic Renewal and the Gift of Tongues. TW, May-June 2004).
17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." 19 So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen. (Mark 16:17-20)
Christians really need to “cry out” in prayer for God to help us and teach us the lessons we need to learn, and God may give the “accompanying signs” of which Jesus spoke. The Bible also says that we are told to earnestly desire the gifts of the Holy Spirit:
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually...
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. 28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the best gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11,27-31)
To summarize this section, we in the Continuing Church of God do believe that God will again grant the gift of speaking in tongues. However, we do not believe that what is commonly reported amongst those in the so-called "Pentecostal movement" are following the pattern set forth in the New Testament.
The Old Testament
Since the Holy Spirit was given on the Day of Pentecost, based upon the date and practices that God gave the children of Israel in the Old Testament, it is logical to conclude that the Old Testament can give us some insight into its meaning.
First of all the term Pentecost is a Greek term meaning 50th. That term is derived from the following Hebrew description of calculating the date:
15 And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. 16 Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath (Leviticus 23:15-16).
The Day of Pentecost has several names, and because of that, some have been confused about it. Its other names in the Bible include, the Feast of Harvest, the Feast of Weeks and the day of firstfruits.
The use of the term "firstfruits" suggests a second harvest. And actually, this too is pointed out in the Old Testament:
...the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field; and the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field (Exodus 23:16-17).
And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year's end (Exodus 34:22).
26 Also on the day of the firstfruits, when you bring a new grain offering to the LORD at your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation (Numbers 28:26).
While some Protestant commentators (e.g. Radmacher E.D. ed. The Nelson Study Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1997, p. 213) refer to the wave sheaf offering as the feast of firstfruits, this is a misnomer. While "a sheaf of firstfruits" was offered then (Leviticus 23:10), as shown above, the Bible refers to the Feast of Weeks as the time of firstfruits (not simply one sheaf). And, as shown below, it refers to the time of counting fifty as being associated with firstfruits:
16 Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD. 17 You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the LORD (Leviticus 23:16-17).
How does the term firstfruits help us understand this day?
The Feast of Pentecost or Feast of Firstfruits (Exodus 34:22) reminds us that God is now calling only a small "firstfruits" spiritual harvest, with the Last Great Day picturing a greater harvest later.
This later harvest is pictured by later Holy Days, that most who profess Christ no longer observe. More information on this is included in the articles The Feast of Tabernacles: A Time for Christians? and Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God differ from most Protestants.
Those who keep all the Holy Days, including Pentecost, generally have a better understanding of what they mean and what God intended by them, than those that do not.
Strangely, even though the Roman Catholic Church observes some version of Pentecost, and knows it has to do with firstfruits, it actually endorses other days for the celebration of firstfruits, and at least one of those days is of pagan origin. Notice the following:
In English-speaking countries in the Northern Hemisphere, August 1 is Lammas Day (loaf-mass day), the festival of the first wheat harvest of the year. On this day it was customary to bring to church a loaf made from the new crop. In many parts of England, tenants were bound to present freshly harvested wheat to their landlords on or before the first day of August. In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, where it is referred to regularly, it is called "the feast of first fruits". The blessing of new fruits was performed annually in both the Eastern and Western Churches on the first, or the sixth, of August. The Sacramentary of Pope Gregory I (d. 604) specifies the sixth. ( Lammas Day. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lammas).
Lughnasadh (pronouced loo'nass'ah) comes at the beginning of August. It is one of the Pagan festivals of Celtic origin which split the year into four.
Celts held the festival of the Irish god Lugh at this time and later, the Anglo-Saxons marked the festival of hlaefmass - loaf mass or Lammas - at this time.
For these agricultural communities this was the first day of the harvest, when the fields would be glowing with corn and reaping would begin. The harvest period would continue until Samhain when the last stores for the winter months would be put away.
Although farming is not an important part of modern life, Lughnasadh is still seen as a harvest festival by Pagans and symbols connected with the reaping of corn predominate in its rites (Lughnasadh (Lammas). BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/paganism/holydays/lughnasadh.shtml).
Samhain is a pagan holiday now normally called Halloween. It would be better if the Roman Church and others would simply observe God's Holy Days His way and not mix with pagan practices. By observing other times as the feast of firstfruits and not truly understanding Pentecost's true meaning, Roman Catholics and others simply do not understand God's plan of salvation (please see the articles Universal Salvation? There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis and Hope of Salvation: How the COGs differ from most Protestants).
Jewish Traditions and When is Pentecost?
Modern Jews tend to call Pentecost be the term Shavuot.
Some have been confused when Pentecost is. Many Jews do not keep it on the same day that the Continuing Church of God keeps it.
The Jews have had two different ways to count it.
According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, here are two versions:
"Regarding the Biblical commandment to offer the 'omer "on the morrow after the Sabbath" = (ib. verse 11), the Rabbis maintained that "Sabbath" here means simply a day of rest and refers to Passover. The Sadducees (Boethusians) disputed this interpretation, contending that "Sabbath" meant "Saturday." Accordingly they would transfer the count of "seven weeks" from the morrow of the first Saturday in Passover, so that Pentecost would always fall on Sunday."
" In post-Talmudic and geonic literature the Biblicalname "Shabu'ot" was resumed. Pentecost falls on the 6th of Siwan." ...
The original contention of the Sadducees was one of the reasons for fixing the Christian Passover on Sunday, in the year 325 (Pineles, "Darkeh shel Torah," p. 212, Vienna, 1861). (Pentecost. Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906. ©2002-2011, JewishEncyclopedia.com. viewed 06/05/14)
That version which is in post-Talmudic literature (put together after the Old Testament) appears to be a later change, and not the biblical one. So, we in the Continuing Church of God observe the biblical method.
Notice also the following from former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks:
The Pharisees, who believed in the Oral Law as well as the Written one understood “the Sabbath” to mean, here, the first day of Pesach (15 Nisan). The Sadducees, who believed in the Written Law only, took the text literally. The day after the Sabbath is Sunday. Thus the count always begins on a Sunday, and Shavuot, fifty days later, also always falls on a Sunday. (Sacks L. Judaism: A Thought for Shavuot. Arutz Sheva, June 3, 2014. http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/15107#.U5M8P5tOVMw viewed 06/07/14)
Jesus condemned the Pharisees for relying too much on the oral law or the written law (Mark 9:5-13) when He told them they were "making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do."
Pentecost is basically on a Sunday. It runs from sunset June 7th through sunset June 8th in 2014.
Speaking of the law and Jewish views, notice the following:
Jewish tradition identified Shavuot as “the time of the giving of the Torah”, the anniversary of the Divine revelation at Sinai when the Israelites heard the voice of God and made a covenant with Him. But that connection is not made in the Torah itself. To be sure, the Torah says that “In the third month after the Israelites had gone forth from the land of Egypt, on that very day, they entered the wilderness of Sinai” (Ex. 19: 1), and Shavuot is the only festival in the third month. So the connection is implicit; but it is not explicit. (Sacks L. Judaism: A Thought for Shavuot. Arutz Sheva, June 3, 2014. http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/15107#.U5M8P5tOVMw viewed 06/07/14)
The traditional festival of Pentecost as the birthday of the Torah ( = "the time our Law was given"), when Israel became a constitutional body and "a distinguished people," remained the sole celebration after the Exile. The Shabu'ot prayers and Mahzor have references to this and particularly to the precepts deduced from the Pentateuch. (Pentecost. Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906. viewed 06/07/14)
It may very well be that the Ten Commandments were brought down from Mount Sinai.
Now, the Jews have recognized the connection between Pentecost and the harvests:
In Palestine the grain harvest lasted seven weeks and was a season of gladness (Jer. v. 24; Deut. xvi. 9; Isa. ix. 2). It began with the harvesting of the barley (Men. 65-66) during the Passover and ended with the harvesting of the wheat at Pentecost, the wheat being the last cereal to ripen. Pentecost was thus the concluding festival of the grain harvest, just as the eighth day of Tabernacles was the concluding festival of the fruit harvest (comp. Pesiḳ. xxx. 193). According to Ex. xxxiv. 18-26 (comp. ib. xxiii. 10-17), the Feast of Weeks is the second of the three festivals to be celebrated...
They are to bring to the sanctuary "the first-fruits of wheat harvest," "the first-fruits of thy labors which thou hast sown in the field." These are not offerings definitely prescribed for the community; "but with a tribute of a free-will offering of thine hand . . . shalt thou [the individual] rejoice before the Lord thy God, thou and thy son and thy daughter, . . . the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow" (Deut. xvi. 9-12). (Pentecost. Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906. viewed 06/07/14)
There is, of course, a biblical connection to a harvest and firstfruits with Pentecost.
Sadly, most now follow improper traditions and not the Hebrew scriptures. Not only did Jesus condemn the Jewish leaders of His day for relying more on tradition than the commands of God, Jesus observed Passover on the evening before most Jews did in His day (and do today).
Perhaps it should be mention that throughout history, there have been Jews who have celebrated the biblical Holy Days on the days the Hebrew scriptures specify. A news article a while back confirmed this when it stated:
Israel is now home to most of the world's Karaite Jews, who have been estranged from mainstream Judaism for centuries. Although most people concede that it is difficult to say exactly how many Karaites there are today, estimates put the population in Israel at approximately 20,000 to 25,000, accounting for the overwhelming majority of the approximately 30,000 Karaites in the world...
Although the Karaites accept all 24 books of the Bible as holy, they staunchly reject the divinity of the Oral Law (recorded in the Talmud) as well as the authority of the rabbis, and view many aspects of rabbinic Halacha as contradictory to the pshat, or plain meaning, of the Torah...
"There are three main concepts that Karaite practice is based on," explains Rabbi Moshe Firrouz of the Karaite synagogue in Beersheba. "There is the written word of the Bible, logical interpretation, and tradition."
Firrouz stresses that one is not allowed to make any sort of rule that contradicts the Torah, and if one gives an explanation for one of the passages, that explanation should not contradict any other part of the Torah either...
Karaites believe themselves to be the descendents of those who have remained the "true practitioners" of the law handed down to Moses at Sinai 3,500 years ago. The word "Karaite" itself comes from the Hebrew phrase bnei mikra ("followers of the scripture")...
Karaites do not accept the rabbinic theology that states that the Oral Torah (recorded in the Talmud) was handed down at Mount Sinai alongside the written Torah (an important tenet of rabbinic Judaism). Nor do they accept that Shavuot marked the historical date of the giving of the Torah. However, they do celebrate the holiday, albeit with a relatively significant difference in timing.
While most Jews will be celebrating the giving of the Torah on May 23 of this year, Karaites will celebrate the holiday on Sunday, May 27. Because they interpret the biblical verse of Leviticus 23:15-16 - which states "And you shall count for you from the morrow after the day of rest [Shabbat]" - to mean the day after Shabbat (Sunday), rather than the day after the first day of Pessah, they always begin counting the Omer on the Sunday that falls during Pessah.
Karaites therefore always celebrate Shavuot on a Sunday, rather than the rabbinic custom of celebrating 49 days from the second day of Pessah (or on the 6th of Sivan). (Laying down the (Oral) law. Jerusalem Post. May 22, 2007. http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1178708657471&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull)
We in the real Church of God agree that Pentecost fell on Sunday, May 27 in 2007 as well. Perhaps that one of the reasons that Acts 2:1 states that the Day of Pentecost had fully come this was because it was observed on the biblically correct counted date and not have the date that Jews who preferred a date from oral tradition used (Jesus also kept Passover on a different date than most Jews do also).
Anyway, notice that even within Judaism, those who rely on oral tradition above scriptures make many errors. More information on biblical interpretation is in the article What is the Appropriate Form of Biblical Interpretation?
The New Testament Helps Explain the Old Testament
The New Testament also does discuss some concepts associated with firstfruits.
Paul also wrote the following:
23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit (Romans 8:23).
Recall that it was the Holy Spirit that was first given on the Day of Pentecost. And that was a type of the firstfruits of the Spirit.
Who are the firstfruits?
4 These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. 5 These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb (Revelation 14:4-5).
In the Old Testament, God said:
10 "I found Israel Like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers As the firstfruits on the fig tree in its first season. But they went to Baal Peor..." (Hosea 9:10).
So originally, physical Israel was like the firstfruits on the branches of a fig tree, but they were unfaithful. In the New Testament, Paul alludes to this and Christians when he wrote:
16 For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, 18 do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, "Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in." 20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. (Romans 11:16-21)
So while physical Israel was intended to be firstfruits, it was replaced by Christians as the firstfruits. And those firstfruits began on Pentecost.
But what about Jesus? Wasn't He a type of firstfruits?
Yes, He certainly was. Paul notes:
20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).
Christ is the fulfillment of the wave sheaf offering in Leviticus 23:10. He is the sheaf of firstfruits. He also fulfilled that role when He ascended into heaven on the Sunday (the wave sheaf offering was on a Sunday) after He was resurrected (John 20:1,17). But neither He nor His true followers observed what is now called Easter.
Also, James notes that Jesus brought us forth to also be a type of firstfruit:
18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures (James 1:18).
So while Jesus was the original firstfruit to represent the wave sheaf offering, true Christians are a kind of firstfruits, represented by the Day of Pentecost. "Firstfruits" mean that only a few will make it in this age--but they also imply that there will be a greater harvest--a time where all who never had an opportunity for salvation will later have an opportunity (for more scriptural references, please read the article Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis).
(More of the wave-sheaf offering is included in the article What Happened in the Crucifixion Week?)
Notice what Peter stated on Pentecost:
29 "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. (Acts 2:29-33)
Notice that Peter, on Pentecost, referred to Jesus as fruit and that He was raised. Pentecost shows that God blesses this small harvest by granting His Holy Spirit so that we can overcome, do His work and grow spiritually even though living in "this present evil age" (Galatians 1:4)
Now Jesus was not only the first of the firstfruits, He was also the firstborn among many brethren:
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:29).
5 Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead (Revelation 1:5).
Since Jesus is the firstborn, this certainly implies that there will become others who are to be like Him. Thus, becoming like Jesus Christ is also part of the message of Pentecost. Of course the idea of becoming like Christ is taught throughout the Bible and is not limited to Pentecost. Notice what John wrote:
32 ...we shall be like Him (1 John 3:2).
Pentecost was Observed Later in the New Testament
The Feast of Pentecost was kept by Christians after the initial one, but with no mention of speaking in tongues.
The Apostle Paul continued to keep Pentecost decades after the Pentecost mentioned in the second chapter of the Book of Acts. Notice what he wrote, about 56 A.D.:
8 For I do not wish to see you now on the way; but I hope to stay a while with you, if the Lord permits. But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost (1 Corinthians 16:8).
This shows that Paul knew when Pentecost was, that he felt that the Corinthians must know when Pentecost was, and that the Ephesians would have known when Pentecost was. Thus, it apparently was being observed by Paul and the Gentiles in Ephesus and Corinth.
In another year, the Apostle Paul also wished to be in Jerusalem for Pentecost, around 60 A.D.:
16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 20:16).
Thus, Christians in Jerusalem were still observing Pentecost and Paul was observing it too. Otherwise, there would be no obvious reason why Paul wanted to be in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.
This was clearly understood by second century writers such as Irenaeus who wrote (circa 180):
Paul taught with simplicity what he knew, not only to those who were [employed] with him, but to those that heard him, he does himself make manifest. For when the bishops and presbyters who came from Ephesus and the other cities adjoining had assembled in Miletus, since he was himself hastening to Jerusalem to observe Pentecost (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book III, Chapter 14, Verse 2). Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
There is a partially questionable book called The Life of Polycarp. This book, which seems to somewhat based on some historical truths in the second century, was changed--at least slightly--in the fourth century. The Life of Polycarp contains some possibly helpful information about Paul, Polycarp, and observing Pentecost:
In the days of unleavened bread Paul, coming down from Galatia, arrived in Asia, considering the repose among the faithful in Smyrna to be a great refreshment in Christ Jesus after his severe toil, and intending afterwards to depart to Jerusalem. So in Smyrna he went to visit Strataeas, who had been his hearer in Pamphylia, being a son of Eunice the daughter of Lois. These are they of whom he makes mention when writing to Timothy, saying; Of the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois and in thy mother Eunice; whence we find that Strataeas was a brother of Timothy. Paul then, entering his house and gathering together the faithful there, speaks to them concerning the Passover and the Pentecost, reminding them of the New Covenant of the offering of bread and the cup; how that they ought most assuredly to celebrate it during the days of unleavened bread, but to hold fast the new mystery of the Passion and Resurrection. For here the Apostle plainly teaches that we ought neither to keep it outside the season of unleavened bread, as the heretics do, especially the Phrygians...but named the days of unleavened bread, the Passover, and the Pentecost, thus ratifying the Gospel (Pionius. Life of Polycarp, Chapter 2. Translated by J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 3.2, 1889, pp.488-506).
Polycarp, himself, was a faithful church leader who was apparently a Gentile.
The ancient Catholic writer Irenaeus knew that Pentecost in the Book of Acts was about firstfruits, as he wrote (circa 180):
This Spirit did David ask for the human race, saying, "And stablish me with Thine all-governing Spirit;" who also, as Luke says, descended at the day of Pentecost upon the disciples after the Lord's ascension, having power to admit all nations to the entrance of life, and to the opening of the new covenant; from whence also, with one accord in all languages, they uttered praise to God, the Spirit bringing distant tribes to unity, and offering to the Father the first-fruits of all nations (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book III, Chapter 17, Verse 2. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
He also realized that it was to be kept on a Sunday:
This [custom], of not bending the knee upon Sunday...took its rise from apostolic times, as the blessed Irenæus, the martyr and bishop of Lyons, declares in his treatise On Pascha, in which he makes mention of Pentecost also; (Comments related to Irenaeus. Fragments of Irenaeus, 7).
The Catholic Encyclopedia states this about Pentecost:
Pentecost...The term, adopted from the Greek-speaking Jews (Tob. 2:1; II Mac. 12:32; Josephus, "Ant.", III, x, 6; etc.) alludes to the fact that the feast, known in the Old Testament as "the feast of harvest of the firstfruits" (Exodus 23:16), "the feast of weeks" (Exodus 24:22; Deuteronomy 16:10: II Paralipomenon 8:13), the "day of firstfruits" (Numbers 28:26), and called by later Jews 'asereth or 'asartha (solemn assembly, and probably "closing festival", Pentecost being the closing festival of the harvest and of the Paschal season) (Souvay C.L. Transcribed by Mark E. Maier. Pentecost (Jewish Feast) The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by Kevin Knight. Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
Pentecost (Whitsunday) A feast of the universal Church which commemorates the Descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, fifty days after the Resurrection of Christ, on the ancient Jewish festival called the "feast of weeks" or Pentecost (Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:10). Whitsunday is so called from the white garments which were worn by those who were baptised during the vigil; Pentecost ("Pfingsten" in German), is the Greek for "the fiftieth"...
Whitsunday, as a Christian feast, dates back to the first century...That Whitsunday belongs to the Apostolic times is stated in the seventh of the (interpolated) fragments attributed to St. Irenæus. In Tertullian (De bapt., xix) the festival appears as already well established (Holweck F.G. Transcribed by Wm Stuart French, Jr. Pentecost (Whitsunday). The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by Kevin Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
Tertullian in the late second century/early third century wrote:
Pentecost is a most joyous space for conferring baptisms; wherein, too, the resurrection of the Lord was repeatedly proved among the disciples, and the hope of the advent of the Lord indirectly pointed to, in that, at that time, when He had been received back into the heavens, the angels told the apostles that "He would so come, as He had withal ascended into the heavens;" at Pentecost, of course. But, moreover, when Jeremiah says, "And I will gather them together from the extremities of the land in the feast-day," he signifies the day of the Passover and of Pentecost, which is properly a "feast-day" (Tertullian. On Baptism, Chapter 19. Translated by the S. Thelwall. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 3. Edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).
In the early third century, the Catholic theologian Origen listed the following as being celebrated:
If it be objected to us on this subject that we ourselves are accustomed to observe certain days, as for example the Lord's day, the Preparation, the Passover, or Pentecost...And, finally, he who can truly say, "We are risen with Christ," and "He has exalted us, and made us to sit with Him in heavenly places in Christ," is always living in the season of Pentecost (Origen. Contra Celsus, Book VIII, Chapter XXII. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 4. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).
In the fourth century, historian and Bishop Eusebius wrote:
All these events occurred during a most important festival, I mean the august and holy solemnity of Pentecost, which is distinguished by a period of seven weeks, and crowned with that one day on which the holy Scriptures attest the reception of our common Saviour into heaven, and the descent of the Holy Spirit among men. In the course of this feast the emperor received the privileges I have described; and on the last day of all, which one might justly call the feast of feasts (Eusebius of Caesaria. The life of the Blessed Emperor Constantine [with the oration of Constantine to the assembly of saints and the oration of Eusebius in praise of Constantine], Chapter LXIV. 1845. Original from Oxford University. Digitized Aug 23, 2006, p. 227).
Although it was not called Whitsunday then (and should not be now), it is clearly documented that those who professed Christ in the first, second, third, and fourth centuries celebrated the Feast of Pentecost.
Furthermore, notice what Archbishop of Constantinople John Chrysostom wrote about it in the fourth century:
When, it says, the day of Pentecost was fully come: that is, when at the Pentecost, while about it, in short. For it was essential that the present events likewise should take place during the feast, that those who had witnessed the crucifixion of Christ, might also behold these...And, it says, there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men. The fact of their dwelling there was a sign of piety: that being of so many nations they should have left country, and home, and relations, and be abiding there...for it was Pentecost. (Chrysostom J. The homilies of S. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople: on the Acts of the Apostles, Volume 1, Homily IV. John Henry Parker, 1851. Original from Harvard University. Digitized, Apr 12, 2008, pp. 53, 55, 56).
So, he admitted that after the resurrection, the faithful needed to be present at what was then considered to be a "Jewish feast".
Notice what else John Chrysostom wrote:
But why did the Holy Ghost come to them, not while Christ was present, nor even immediately after His departure, but, whereas Christ ascended on the fortieth day, the Spirit descended when the day of Pentecost, that is, the fiftieth, was fully come ? And how was it, if the Spirit had not yet '" come, that He said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost? In order, to render them capable and meet for the reception of Him. (Chrysostom J. The homilies of S. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople: on the Acts of the Apostles, Volume 1, Homily I. John Henry Parker, 1851. Original from Harvard University. Digitized, Apr 12, 2008, p. 11).
Well, a better and more obvious answer to why then, is that the Holy Days are part of God's plan of salvation, the apostles followed Jesus' example to keep them, and Pentecost was the time God planned to pour out His Spirit. The disciples obviously did not feel that the Holy Days were done away with after Jesus' resurrection or they would not have been gathered together observing it.
To some degree, the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant churches all celebrate Passover (though most refer to it as Easter and consider it a resurrection holiday) and Pentecost, which were originally Holy Days that the children of Israel observed (and which were still observed by the early true Christian church). But they do not seem to feel that it is a continuation of the Holy Days in Leviticus 23, they seem to act like it has nothing to do with them (other than the date).
Although he does not tie the following statement into a discussion of Pentecost, notice what Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (who is now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) wrote:
Man can become God, not by making himself God, but by allowing himself to be made 'Son'.
Since Jesus is the first of the firstfruits, and the Day of Pentecost shows that we are also to become firstfruits, the observance of the biblical Pentecost helps picture that God the Father is calling true Christians to truly be His sons. We are to be in the family of God (this is documented in more detail in the article Deification: Did the Early Church Teach That Christians Would Become God? and What is the Meaning of Life?).
Comments From Herbert W. Armstrong
Here are quotes from the late Herbert W. Armstrong about Pentecost in his booklet Pagan Holidays or God’s Holy Days Which?:
What You Should Know About Pentecost
IS THIS the only “day of salvation”? Most churches generally teach that all who die “unsaved,” or do not “get saved” before the second coming of Christ, can never receive salvation.
They assume there is a great contest in progress between Christ and Satan. They believe Christ came to save the world, and by means of all these churches, through which He is desperately trying to “get the world saved.”
On the other hand, the clever deceptive devil is doing all he can to prevent people from being “saved.” And they seem to believe there is a time limit on the contest.
We are now near the time for the Second Coming of Christ, but when Christ returns to earth in person He will find Himself helpless utterly unable to save the world from Satan’s clutch because then “it will be too late.” “Probation will be closed,” as one denomination expresses it.
This paganized teaching represents Satan as far more powerful than God.
The Answer Revealed
The New Testament Church of God was founded on a Sunday. It started on the annual Sabbath day called “Pentecost” or “Feast of Firstfruits.” Also called the “Feast of Weeks.”
The New Testament Church continued, year after year, to keep this annual Sabbath, Pentecost, as we shall show.
And God gave this festival to His people in order to reveal, and to keep them continually informed, that the present dispensation is only the first, preliminary “harvest of souls.”
As already explained, God’s purpose in giving His Church His annual holy days was to keep His children constantly in true understanding of God’s great plan.
To accomplish this, God took the yearly material harvest seasons in ancient Israel as the picture of the spiritual harvest of souls.
In the Holy Land there are two annual harvests. First, is the spring grain harvest. Second, comes the fall harvest. God intended His holy days to picture to His Church repeatedly year by year the fact that only those He Himself calls during this age can become His begotten children now! And we are merely the firstfruits of the great spiritual harvest!
The Wave Sheaf
But let us continue the central passage which summarizes all the holy days Leviticus 23.
Here we find all of God’s festivals proclaimed holy convocations, in the one chapter. First is the weekly convocation day, the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week. Then, beginning verse 4, follows a list of the annual festivals, also commanded assemblies, “which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.”
First of these is the Passover, followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread with the two annual Sabbaths. Beginning verse 9, we find instructions for the wave-sheaf offering. The Israelites were not allowed to harvest any of the early grain crop until this day (verse 14). Then, on the day following the weekly Sabbath, in a solemn ceremony of the Levitical priesthood (the rituals were mere substitutes and therefore not practiced today), the first sheaf of grain was cut. This event always occurred during the days of unleavened bread (see Joshua 5). The sheaf was then brought to the priest. The priest solemnly waved it before the Eternal to be accepted for them.
This pictures the resurrected Christ ascending to heaven to be accepted by His Father as the very first human to be actually born of God the firstfruit of the first harvest of souls! By comparing John 20:17 with Matthew 28:9, you will see that Christ presented Himself before the Father on the morning after His resurrection the previous evening (I Corinthians 15:20, 23; Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15, 18). This fulfillment of the wave-sheaf offering actually occurred on Sunday, the morrow after the Sabbath during the days of unleavened bread.
How to Figure Pentecost
Next comes Pentecost. The word “Pentecost” is a Greek word, used in the New Testament, but not in the Old. It signifies “fiftieth (day).” In the Old Testament this feast is called “Feast of Firstfruits,” and “Feast of Weeks.”
Notice the properly translated plain instruction beginning Leviticus 23:15: “And ye shall count unto you from [on, or beginning with] 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 that fiftieth day is Pentecost!
“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 forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations” (verse 21).
All other holy days or festivals come on definite days of definite months. But this one annual Sabbath must be determined by counting. It is very simple and plain.
It is of very grave importance that we figure the right day. This day, and this only, is made holy by the Eternal Creator. Suppose at the same time the Church of God was founded, the apostles had miscounted, and “when the day of Pentecost was fully come” (Acts 2:1) they, instead of being all with one accord in one place were in discord, some having observed the day preceding, and some waiting until the following day!
The Pharisees, who gained complete control of Jewish religious observances shortly after the middle of the first century AD, figured (incorrectly that is, from the wrong starting point) from the day after the first annual Sabbath.
Before that time, however, the high priests of the family Boethus, who were Sadducees, had been in control of matters concerning the festivals in Jerusalem. The Boethusians always counted from the morrow after the weekly Sabbath, the day we call Saturday, which usually fell within the Days of Unleavened Bread or immediately before the first day of Unleavened Bread. This historical information has been preserved for us in the Mishna, which was set in writing about AD 200:
“The Boethusians say: ‘The cutting of the sheaf does not take place at the end of the day of the feast [the first of the seven days of unleavened bread], but only at the end of the next regular Sabbath’” (Menahoth, 10, 3).
This practice had been handed down among the priests from generation to generation. And their method of counting was done as long as they remained in control of the Temple and its rituals. Samaritans and Karaites (Jewish sect dating from the eighth century AD) have also continued to count from the weekly Sabbath, the seventh day of the week.
On a Sunday
Starting then to count from the offering of the wave sheaf, with that Sunday as day number one, we will always come out on another Sunday but NOT always on the same day of the month. It is something which must be “counted” each and every year. Neither in the Hebrew (or biblical) calendar, nor in the Roman calendar which is commonly used today, can the day of Pentecost ever become fixed on a set day of the month.
Quoting again from the Mishna, and speaking about the correct practice which had been followed in Jerusalem before the Pharisees took complete control, “[The Boethusians say:] Pentecost always falls on the day after the Sabbath” (Chagigah, 2, 4).
This makes very clear the meaning of the last part of Leviticus 23:15 and the beginning of verse 16: “. . . seven Sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall ye number fifty days.”
A second and perhaps for some a simpler instruction for counting to Pentecost is found in Deuteronomy 16:9-10: “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 [Pentecost]. . . .”
This means of counting is also referred to in Numbers 28:26: “Also in the day of the firstfruits [Pentecost], 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.”
Because seven weeks were counted, the festival of Pentecost was also known as the “feast of weeks” (Deuteronomy 16:10).
Meaning of Pentecost
Passover symbolized Christ’s sacrifice for the remission of our sins, and the days of unleavened bread the putting away of sin. Pentecost pictures the first part of the spiritual harvest the calling out of the Church the called-out ones which, for the New Testament dispensation, began on Sunday Pentecost, June 17, 31 AD. On that day the Holy Spirit came to dwell within flesh, as prophesied by Joel.
On the fiftieth day (Pentecost) in Old Testament times, two “wave loaves” (Leviticus 23:17, 20) were brought out of the habitations of the congregation as the firstfruits unto the Lord. Just so the New Testament Church was gathered out of this world as the firstfruits of His salvation, in fulfillment of the meaning of the wave loaves.
We have all, if we have been converted, become a part of that New Testament Church. We have become part of what was symbolized by those wave loaves.
And just as the wave sheaf was lifted up into the air and waved, symbolizing Christ’s trip to heaven and return, so the wave loaves were lifted up and waved, symbolizing that we too shall for a moment leave this solid earth when we ascend to meet Him in the air (I Thessalonians 4:16-17) before we return with Him to stand on the Mount of Olives as He begins His millennial rule (Acts 1:11; Zechariah 14:3-4).
Most Not Now Called
God has not cast away His people, Israel. But He blinded them for a temporary period of time so that through their fall, salvation came to the Gentiles, who, through Christ, are individually grafted in, or spiritually adopted into, the family of Israel (Romans 11).
This is the dispensation when God is calling a people for His name to be kings and priests, reigning with Christ in the Kingdom during the thousand years (Revelation 5:10).
“After this” after this dispensation of taking out of the Gentiles a people for His name “I will return,” promises the Eternal. What for? “And will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I [Christ, not men] will set it up.”
Why? “That the residue of men might seek after the Lord.” (Acts 15:14-17 study this again!)
During this present Church age, the descendants of ancient Judah and Israel are blinded. After this, Christ will return, and then the rest of men blinded Israel, and Gentiles alike, will seek after the Lord when Satan is chained and Christ reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords!
Those of the firstfruits of His salvation, made immortal, will then reign with Him as kings and priests in the wonderful work of building a new civilization.
During this time Israel is mostly blinded until the fullness of the Gentiles come in; and so (Romans 11:26) all Israel shall, then, be saved from sin; for the Deliverer, Christ, shall come out of Zion! All Israel shall be brought to repentance and saved from sin how? Because Christ turns ungodliness from mortal Israel by forgiving sin.
Now, in this dispensation, Israel has not believed, and the tabernacle of David is fallen down (Romans 11:31-32), that, through the mercy of the Gentiles and the small “elect” in Israel, picked out in this age, acting as kings and priests with Christ, they, also, then, may obtain mercy! How wonderful is God’s great plan of redemption, when we understand it, as we see it pictured in these annual holy days!
Only First Harvest Now
In James 1:18 and Romans 8:23, for example, the saints of this dispensation are called the firstfruits of God’s salvation. This dispensation, and the picking out of these people to bear His name, began on the day of Pentecost. This feast annually pictures this great event this great “mystery” dispensation in God’s redemptive plan!
Notice, too, that these feasts, Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost, fall at the beginning of the year, and the great events they picture occur at the very beginning of the plan of salvation!
The group of holy days coming at the END of the year all symbolize tremendous events in God’s plan of redemption to occur, yet future, at the end of the dispensation! They all come in the seventh month and their fulfillment will introduce the seventh thousand-years since creation!
The churches of this world today teach it is the mission of the Church to save the world. They teach that all who ever shall be saved are being saved, now, in this present dispensation. They teach that “probation ENDS” at, or prior to, the Second Coming of Christ.
If this be true, what a failure is God’s plan! Only a very, very few have been truly saved in this dispensation. One third of all living on earth today have never even heard the only name whereby we may be saved!
Are they the majority of all living, eternally lost because they never heard lost and condemned without a chance? The common teaching is that God has cast away His people Israel, and they are eternally doomed and lost. Had they been keeping these annual holy days, commanded to be kept forever all kept faithfully by the New Testament Church as recorded in Acts and in church history they would have understood God’s wonderful plan.
We are not to convert everyone in the world in this age, but to declare the Gospel. What Gospel? The good news of the Kingdom the good news of the thousand years of restitution of all things when Christ returns to reign in power and great glory!
Let us understand this. During this time Israel is blinded in part but only until the completion of this Gentile dispensation. During this time, only the minority of Gentiles Chinese, people of India and Russia have even heard the name of Christ.
The good news of the coming Kingdom is to be preached as a witness. Many have been called during this time, but only few actually chosen, and still fewer have remained faithful to the end.
They the people picked out for His name shall be made immortal and shall reign during the thousand years of the Kingdom upon earth. Then Israel’s blindness will be removed. They were blinded until the end of Gentile times. The heavens received Jesus until these times of restitution of all things.
Those now gathered, since that day of Pentecost, June 17, AD 31, are the firstfruits only, of God’s plan of salvation. This dispensation, then, is picking out only the “firstfruits” of those to be saved. And they are being tried and tested to qualify for positions as kings and priests in the Kingdom, to effect, then, the real salvation of the world.
When Christ Returns
Then it is that God shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people Israel (Isaiah 11:11).
Then it is that “. . . the Lord will come with fire, and . . . by fire and by his sword will the Lord plead with all flesh. . . . And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape [these plagues] of them unto the nations [Gentiles] . . . that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles” (Isaiah 66:15-16, 19).
Then it is that “living waters shall go out from Jerusalem,” and the Gentile nations that have not heard previously “shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles“! (Zechariah 14:16.)
Then it is that many nations “shall come and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain [nation] of the Lord . . . and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares . . . neither shall they learn war any more. . . . In that day, saith the Lord . . . the Lord shall reign over them in mount Zion from henceforth, even for ever” (Micah 4:2-7). This does not apply to God’s Church now but to the glorious time of the Kingdom, after Christ returns. What a wonderful plan of redemption!
Adam sinned. All have sinned. From Adam to now we behold a chronicle of man without God of human suffering and failure. And thus God, in His great wisdom, has permitted men to prove to themselves what sinners they are how helpless they are, of themselves!
And finally we shall have to learn the lesson that it is only when God Himself undertakes to save men by sending Jesus to rule with a rod of iron that the world can really be saved! And so, those now being saved are a firstfruits of salvation, and will have the very great honor of being Christ’s assistants in that wonderful Kingdom work of redemption!
That is God’s true plan of redemption, as taught from Genesis to Revelation! And how contrary to the popular teaching! But it is the plan, nevertheless, pictured in God’s annual holy days. And had the churches continued to keep these holy days, they would never have lost sight of this plan, and come under the deception of false religionists!
Pentecost Observed by New Testament Church of God
Just as we found the true Church of God continuing to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover, so they continued to observe Pentecost. Read it: I Corinthians 16:8; Acts 20:16.
Had they not been assembled in a holy convocation on the first Pentecost after everything that was abolished had been done away, we never could have read in our Bibles the sublime record of the second chapter of Acts.
Now a “holy convocation” means a holy assembly of the Church, convoked under absolute authority. Look up the word “convocation” in the dictionary. It is an assembly where everyone is commanded, under authority, to be present. The Sabbath is a weekly holy convocation. We are commanded, therefore, to assemble ourselves together. Each of these annual days is an holy convocation. The early Church obeyed. Do we?
We in the Continuing Church of God observe this day as did the early faithful church.
Offerings Were Taken Up
Pentecost was one of the times that offerings were taken up.
Notice the following scriptures:
9 "You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain. 10 Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the Lord your God blesses you. (Deuteronomy 16:9-10)
22 "And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year's end. 23 "Three times in the year all your men shall appear before the Lord, the Lord God of Israel. (Exodus 34:22-24)
16 "Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed. 17 Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you. (Deuteronomy 16:16-17)
Hence, groups like the Continuing Church of God take up an offering on Pentecost.
In the Old Testament, the Feast of Weeks, involving firstfruits, was kept 50 days after the Sabbath after Passover. Thus, it was kept on a the day commonly now referred to as Sunday. Because it is a holy convocation, it is observed similar to a weekly Sabbath, but with offerings.
After the death of Christ, the apostles gathered together on that date. And a precise time on that date, the Holy Spirit was poured out to provide Christians access to God as a kind of firstfruits. Jesus was the first of these firstfruits and Christians who are called in this age are also to be firstfruits as He is (those called later are also to be as Jesus is, but simply will not be firstfruits).
The Day of Pentecost was on May 24, 2015, In 2016, it is to be June 12th, with the actual observation begins the evening before at sunset on June 11th and runs through sunset June 12th.. For the Roman calendar dates of God's Holy Days until 2024, click on the link: Holy Day Calendar.
One of the important lessons of Pentecost is the concept of "firstfruits"-- that God is only calling out a small number of people—the "firstfruits"—in this age--but that others will be called later. Another is that it takes God's Spirit to be a real Christian and accomplish what God wants accomplished.
The Day of Pentecost was kept by those in New Testament times, as well as by Christians ever since. But, for those who truly understand the meaning from the Bible, Pentecost pictures more than the start of the New Testament church. It shows that those now being called are a type of firstfruit, that they are to be like Jesus Christ, that God's Spirit is needed to do His will, and that this Holy Day shows part of the plan of God to save nearly all of humankind.
See also Universal Salvation? There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis.
You can go to the following link to play a Pentecost Quiz which involves both the Old and New Testament of the Bible.
Holy Day Articles:
Is Revelation 1:10 talking about Sunday or the Day of the Lord? Most Protestant scholars say Sunday is the Lord's Day, but is that what the Bible teaches?
Is God Unreasonable? Some have suggested that if God requires Sabbath-keeping He is unreasonable. Is that true?
Is There "An Annual Worship Calendar" In the Bible? This paper provides a biblical and historical critique of several articles which state that this should be a local decision. Also you can click here for the calendar of Holy Days.
Passover and the Early Church Did the early Christians observe Passover? What did Jesus and Paul teach?
What Happened in the Crucifixion Week? How long are three days and three nights? Did Jesus die on "Good Friday"? Was the resurrection on Sunday? Do you really know? Who determined the date of Easter?
Melito's Homily on the Passover This is one of the earliest Christian writings about the Passover. This also includes what Apollinaris wrote on the Passover as well.
Should Christians Keep the Days of Unleavened Bread? Do they have any use or meaning now? This article supplies some biblical answers.
UCG and Its Unleavened Bread Study Paper What does the Bible say about eating unleavened bread for seven days? What has UCG officially said about it?
Pentecost Quiz This is a Pentecost quiz based upon the Old and New Testaments in the Bible.
Did Early Christians Observe the Fall Holy Days? Did they? Did Jesus?
The Book of Life and the Feast of Trumpets? Are they related? Is so how? If not, where not?
The Day of Atonement--Its Christian Significance The Jews call it Yom Kippur, Christians "The Day of Atonement". Does it have any relevance for Christians today?
The Feast of Tabernacles: A Time for Christians? Is this pilgrimage holy day still valid? Does it teach anything relevant for today's Christians?
Last Great Day study paper Was Jesus speaking about the 7th or 8th day of the Feast in John 7:37? UCG says the 7th, but what does the Bible teach? This extensive paper reviews UCG's LGD study paper and includes comments as to where it erred.
Holy Days This is a listing of the biblical holy days through 2024, with their Roman calendar dates.
Thiel B. Pentecost: Is It More Than Acts 2? www.cogwriter.com (c) 2006/2007/2008/2009/2010/2011/2012/2013/2014/2015 1016
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