In studying the Feast of Pentecost, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that this celebration ties together many loose ends for the church. I hope to bring you along on this fascinating journey of discovery about Pentecost, perhaps our “highest watch date”! Previously, I summarized what I had found to date in this post – Pentecost – The Feast That Ties Everything Together For the Church. An overview of how Pentecost fits in to the overall feasts can be found here – The Feasts of the LORD: God’s Appointed Times.
Let’s examine some further details about this special day!
Pentecost – an Overview
Pentecost, otherwise known as Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks, is one of God’s appointed times. Gary Stearman of Prophecy Watchers describes Pentecost in this way:
We have demonstrated numerous remarkable connections between Pentecost and the prophetic conclusion of the church age. It is the fourth and central feast among the seven Feasts of Israel: Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Pentecost, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and Tabernacles. The first three are spring festivals, representing the blood sacrifice and resurrection. The last three come in the fall, calling forth judgment and the establishment of the Kingdom. At the center – in the early summer – is Pentecost. In the Bible, it is represented by two loaves of leavened bread, held aloft by the High Priest. Today’s Jews celebrate it annually, in a ceremony called, “decorating the bride.” This reminds us of the church, the “bride of Christ.”
Shavuot is considered the day on which Judaism was born (the Age of Law). Pentecost is also considered the day on which the Church was born (the Age of Grace). While it’s clear that much has occurred on Pentecost already, I challenge you to consider whether or not Pentecost has been completely fulfilled. If it has, then we look to the Feast of Trumpets next. If it hasn’t, then what does that mean for us as the body of Christ?
Specifically, will a future Pentecost mark another dispensation change?
Which dispensation change? Well… I am thinking specifically of the end of the Church Age and the start of a 7 year mini “Age of Wrath”. What do you think? It’s certainly worth studying, so let’s dive in!
Passages Describing the Feast of Pentecost
When studying Biblical teaching, I believe it is always important to read the source for yourself. Not just a verse or two, but the entire relevant passage. This will sharpen your discernment skills, as you examine the scriptures for yourself to see if these things are so. Because we are going to be discussing Pentecost in great detail over the next few posts, I encourage you to read through the following passages at least once:
On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine;6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”7 So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. 8 All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” The Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments 11 and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. 13 No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” 14 So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people; and they washed their garments. 15 And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.” 16 On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. 19 And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. 20 The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.
[10 Commandments Given]
18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” 21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.
[Additional commandments Given – the Law]
3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” 6 And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” 15 Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain.16 The glory of the Lord dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. 18 Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
(Exodus 19:1, 5-8, 10-20; 20:18-21; 24:3, 6-8, 15-17)
“You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to the Lord. And you shall present with the bread seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bull from the herd and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the Lord, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. And you shall offer one male goat for a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings. And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. And you shall make a proclamation on the same day. You shall hold a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a statute forever in all your dwelling places throughout your generations. “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.”
26 “On the day of the firstfruits, when you offer a grain offering of new grain to the Lord at your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work, 27 but offer a burnt offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord: two bulls from the herd, one ram, seven male lambs a year old; 28 also their grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil, three tenths of an ephah for each bull, two tenths for one ram, 29 a tenth for each of the seven lambs; 30 with one male goat, to make atonement for you. 31 Besides the regular burnt offering and its grain offering, you shall offer them and their drink offering. See that they are without blemish.
“You shall count seven weeks. Begin to count the seven weeks from the time the sickle is first put to the standing 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. 11 And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your towns, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are among you, at the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name dwell there. 12 You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt; and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.
The First Pentecost (Shavuot) in the Old Covenant
Shavuot is the feast that marks the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. In this way, it can be considered the “birthday of Judaism”. The first Shavuot occurred exactly 7 weeks after the Exodus on Sivan 6. This feast became an agricultural celebration of God’s provision for Israel. It marked one of the 3 times per year that adult men would need to go to Jerusalem to make sacrifices (the others being Unleavened Bread/Passover in the early spring and Tabernacles in the fall). The first Shavuot is described in great detail in the above passages.
During the festival of Shavuot, a sample of the first of the wheat harvest (note that believers in Christ are often referred to as wheat, as opposed to tares) was brought to the priests. This wheat was baked into two loaves of leavened bread and waved before the altar. Notably, this is the only feast that includes leaven in the offering. The purpose for the inclusion of leaven isn’t detailed, but I believe it possibly points to both Jew and Gentile being made into one body under the New Covenant. A similar question might be – why are there TWO loaves, and not just one? Could this be pointing to the same thing – Jew and Gentile made one under the New Covenant?
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Ephesians 2:14-16)
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:11)
Awesome. Let’s keep going. Hebrew4Christians states in their article on Shavuot – “Moses ascended the mountain, and there God commanded him to tell the leaders that if they would obey the LORD and keep His covenant, then they would be the LORD’s “kingdom of priests and “holy nation”.” (Exodus 19:6) Hmmmm, does that phrase sound familiar? In the Church Age fulfillment of Shavuot, we are also called a royal priesthood and holy nation:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)
Ok, carrying on! The people respond that they will follow the LORD’s commandments and enter into covenant with Him. [This, of course, is the covenant of the Law, which at the fulfillment of Passover gets superseded by the New and Better Covenant in Jesus’ blood.] God tells them to “Be ready for the third day; for on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people”. In the meantime, they were to sanctify themselves via specific purification rites, which they carried out as directed. In parallel, in the the new covenant, we are washed and purified by the blood of Jesus.
Incidentally, this “third day” was not repeated at Pentecost in 32AD (or whichever year Jesus died), nor is it prophesied to be repeated in the future – despite what some Catholic mysticism sites erroneously claim.
Hebrew4Christians continues – “Rabbinic tradition says that the Torah was actually given on the sixth of Sivan, the Shabbat following the new moon of Sivan that year. On Shabbat morning of the sixth of Sivan, exactly seven weeks after the Exodus, all the children of Israel gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai, where the LORD descended amidst thunder, lightning, billowing smoke, fire, and the voluminous blast of the shofar. The LORD then declared the foundation of moral conduct required of the people, the Ten Commandments. The sound of a shofar grew louder and louder until terror gripped the heart of the people. As the LORD began speaking the second commandment, however, the people began falling back in fear…”
Thunder, lightning, billowing smoke, fire, and the voluminous blast of the shofar sending terror into the heart of the people. NOTE THIS!!!
Moses then takes the blood of the sacrifices and throws half upon the altar and half upon the people, ratifying the covenant with blood (the new covenant is ratified in the blood of Christ). Moses, Aaron, Aaron’s sons, and the 70 elders of Israel then ascended Mount Sinai to eat a “covenant affirmation meal” with the LORD. Yes, these all dine with the LORD Himself (Exodus 24:9-11). Hmmm, there’s an upcoming wedding feast where we will dine with the LORD Himself. I wonder if it will occur in conjunction with a future Shavuot?
Greek translators later called Shavuot “Pentecost”, as it occurs 50 (penta) days after the Passover. So that is what we will call it from now on.
The First Pentecost in the New Covenant
On to the New Testament and the New Covenant! On the celebration of this feast day after Jesus’ resurrection, the Holy Spirit was given to the body of Christ in power and as a seal. Thus, Pentecost is associated with the “birthday of the Church”.
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4)
The coming of the Holy Spirit upon all believers is unique to the church age. In the Old Covenant (Age of Law), the Holy Spirit came upon specific individuals such as the kings, prophets, and judges. In the New Covenant (Age of Grace), the Holy Spirit comes upon all believers at the moment of salvation to Seal them for the Day of Redemption.
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)
This sealing ministry of the Holy Spirit I believe is a special key to understanding the seals of Revelation 6. The transference of His sealing from the church to the 144,000 perhaps marks the opening of the Seals of Revelation. Jeff discusses this “passing of the torch” in this article – Passing the Torch: Ministry Transfer from the Church to the Two Witnesses.
Hebrew4Christians describes the festival of Shavuot as “the culmination of the redemption, sometimes called Atzeret Pesach, or “The Gathering of Passover””. Culmination of redemption, and the gathering, hey? Brings to mind these verses:
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him… (2 Thessalonians 2:1)
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:22-23)
It’s looking like Pentecost just may be the feast that marks the culmination of our redemption.
Did Jesus Fulfill Shavuot / Pentecost Completely?
There is no question that Jesus fulfilled the first three Spring feasts in entirety through His death (Passover), burial (Unleavened Bread), and resurrection (Firstfruits). When the Holy Spirit came down at Pentecost, was that the complete fulfillment of the late spring feast?
We noted above that the shadow (dress rehearsal) always points to the substance (fulfillment) – which is all found in Jesus Christ. Jesus sent His Spirit to the church for this age, and that has typically been considered as the definitive fulfillment. Recently, however, Greg at A Little Strength has noted that the Holy Spirit isn’t actually Christ Himself, nor did Jesus send Him. It was the Father who sent the Holy Spirit to believers:
Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. Acts 2:33
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:26
This may seem a little nitpicky, to argue over the Father versus the Son sending the Holy Spirit. Bear with me. Jesus literally fulfilled the first 3 Spring Feasts Himself in the same year. He will literally fulfill the 3 Fall Feasts Himself in the same year, at the Second Coming. Is this a clue that Jesus Himself will fulfill Pentecost – not the Father?
Could it be that BOTH the giving of the Law and the giving of the Holy Spirit were only partial (shadow) fulfillments of Pentecost?
Could it be that Jesus – Himself, literally – snatching His church on a future day of Pentecost will be the ultimate consummation of this feast? We know He will literally and personally call us up to be with Him someday, right? Isn’t it logical that it would be possibly timed to fulfill a Feast of the Lord? I cannot say I have a prophetic answer for this, but this interpretation is worth considering, don’t you think?