On the Day of Pentecost, Jews from all over the world gathered in Jerusalem. They read, among other Scriptures, Ezek. 1:1-28 and 3:12; and Hab. 2:20 – 3:19. These passages speak of the brightness of God’s glory. Ezekiel heard wind and voices, and saw fire; later, he witnessed the departure of the Shekinah glory. There was expectation on this special day that the Shekinah glory would return and take its rightful place in the Temple’s Holy of Holies. But instead, as Luke records in Acts 2, there was wind, fire, and voices (the 120 speaking in tongues). Rather than returning to reside in the Temple, the Holy Spirit took up residence in the “temple of God” (1 Cor. 3:16), the bodies of believers in Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.
Everyone can see Jesus in the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot / Pentecost) by observing His promises about the coming Holy Spirit:
- His promise to depart and return to the Father (John 16:7). The coming of the Holy Spirit was contingent upon Jesus completing His work of redemption and returning to His Father. See also John 7:39; Acts 2:32-3.
- His promise to send the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is said to be a gift from the Father (John 14:16, 26) sent by the Son (John 14:26; 15:26: 16:7). Roy B. Zuck, in A Biblical Theology of the New Testament, comments: “Whatever else is meant by the difficult statement that the Spirit ‘goes out from the Father’ (John 15:26), it implies that the Spirit shares the same essential nature as the Father. In fact, John was indicating here the parallelism between the mission of the Son, sent from God (3:17, 34; 5:36-38; 6:29, 57; 7:29; 8:42; 10:36; 11:42; 17:3, 8, 18, 21, 23, 25; 20:21), and the mission of the Son’s replacement, the Holy Spirit, who would be ‘another Paraclete’ to the disciples and who would enable them to carry on Jesus’ mission after He returned to the Father.”
- His promise of the Spirit’s ministry to unbelievers (John 16:8-11). Without the Spirit’s work to convince unbelievers of the sin of unbelief, the righteousness of Christ, and the judgment that will fall upon them if they persist in their rejection of Jesus, no one could be saved.
- His promise of the Spirit’s ministry to believers, specifically:
- To regenerate us, or make us spiritually alive (John 3:3-8; Titus 3:5).
- To indwell us, or take up permanent residence in our human spirits (John 14:17).
- To baptize us, initiating our relationship to Him and establishing our connection with Christ and other believers (Acts 1:5; 1 Cor. 12:13).
- To seal us, a guarantee that God will take us fully into His presence on day (Eph. 1:13-14).
- To teach us, or give us divine assistance (John 14:26; 1 Cor. 2:12; 1 John 2:27).
- To empower (fill) us for witnessing (Acts 1:8).
- To empower (fill) us for service (Act. 6:5; Eph. 5:18). As Paul S. Karleen writes in The Handbook to Bible Study: With a Guide to the Scofield Study System, “Filling is the result of a consistent walk with God, and depends on a genuine and mature relationship with the Holy Spirit, Simply asking to be filled will not bring it.”
- To equip us with spiritual gifts (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:7-11; Eph. 4:11; 1 Peter 4:11).
5. His promise to identify His Body (the church) by the Spirit (John 14:16-18; Rom. 8:9-11).
Three Scripture passages outline the biblical observance of Pentecost, or Shavuot. Lev. 23:15-22 and Num. 28:26-31 describe the Temple offerings, and Deut. 16:9-12 outlines the requirements for individual worshipers.
Like the feasts of Unleavened Bread and Tabernacles, Shavuot was one of three “solemn feasts” decreed by the Lord (Ex. 23:14-17; Deut. 16:16; 2 Chron. 8:13). All Israelite men were obligated to present themselves at the Temple. The Temple services for Shavuot closely resembled those of the Feast of Firstfruits, since both holy days were observed with firstfruit offerings. However, the offering for Shavuot was different. It consisted of two long loaves of wheat bread with leaven in them, as the Lord commanded: “Bring two loaves of bread from your settlements as a presentation offering, each of them made from four quarts of fine flour, baked with yeast, as firstfruits to the Lord” (Lev. 23:17).
The loaves of bread were not burned because God had forbidden leaven on the altar (Lev. 2:11). Instead, these loaves with yeast in them, along with two lambs, formed the wave offering for Shavuot. The priest waved them in front of the altar forwards and backwards, and then up and down. After that, they were set aside “for the priest” (Lev. 23:20) and became the festive meal the priests ate later that day in the Temple.
Acts 2 records the fulfillment of Shavuot as the promised Holy Spirit descends, indwells believers and ushers in the church age.
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This is the fourth in a series of articles on Jesus in the feasts of Israel.
|Name||Scriptures||Time / Date||Purpose||Fulfillment|
|Pentecost||Lev. 23:15-22; Num. 28:26-31; Deut. 16:9-12||50 days after Firstfruits (May/June)||To dedicate the firstfruits of the wheat harvest||The outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2)|
Scripture uses three names to identify the feast many Christians today know as Pentecost (Shavuot in Hebrew):
- Hag Hashavuot, meaning “the Feast of Weeks” (Ex. 34:22; Deut. 16:10; 2 Chron. 8:13). It’s called the Feast of Weeks because seven weeks were counted from the Feast of Firstfruits until this feast.
- Yom Habikkurim, or “the Day of Firstfruits” (Num. 28:26). This is the day in which the firstfruit offerings of the summer wheat crop were brought to the Temple. This day marked the beginning of the summer wheat harvest, while the Feast of Firstfruits marked the beginning of the spring barley harvest.
- Hag Hakatzir, or “the Feast of Harvest” (Ex. 23:16). This feast marked the beginning of the summer harvest season.
In the Greek language, Shavuot was known as Pentecost, meaning “fiftieth,” since it was celebrated 50 days after the Feast of Firstfruits.
The Biblical Observance
Three Scripture passages outline the biblical observance of Shavuot. Lev. 23:15-22 and Num. 28:26-31 describe the Temple offerings, and Deut. 16:9-12 outlines the requirements for individual worshipers.
The Modern Observance
After Roman troops destroyed the Jewish Temple in 70 A.D., many of the feasts changed, since the Temple had been the focal point of the spring and fall festivals. In 140 A.D., the Sanhedrin decided to change the emphasis of Shavuot away from agriculture and onto the giving of the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Although the Bible does not associate Shavuot with Sinai, the giving of the law occurred in the third month (Ex. 19:1), so there was some justification for the decision. Shavuot became known as Zeman Mattan Toreatenu, “the Time of the Giving of Our Law.”
Today, it is customary to decorate synagogues with flowers and greenery for Shavuot. This reminds Jews that Firstfruits is a harvest festival and, according to tradition, Mt. Sinai once was covered with grass and trees. Key Scriptures are from Ezekiel 1:1-28 and 3:12; and Habakkuk 2:20-3:19. These passages describe the brightness of God’s glory. After Shavuot was refocused on the giving of the law, Exodus 19-20 and the Book of Ruth were added to the festival’s readings. In addition, many synagogues hold Shavuot confirmation services for teenagers to celebrate completion of their childhood studies and their commitment to observe the Mosaic Law.
Dairy foods are traditional Shavuot fare. This is because, the rabbis say, the law is like milk and honey to the soul. Among the dishes are cheesecakes, cheese blintzes, and cheese kreplach. The blintzes are cheese rolled into pancakes the fried in a skillet. The kreplach are dough pockets stuffed with cheese. It is also customary to bake two loaves of hallah bread. They represent the two loaves of bread offered in the Temple and the two tablets received on Mt. Sinai.
It’s also customary for observant Jews to stay up all night studying and discussing the Torah. They study the opening and closing verses of each Sabbath reading, the opening and closing verses of each book of the Bible, and the entire book of Ruth, with breaks throughout the night for coffee and cheesecake.
Acts 2 records the fulfillment of Shavuot as the promised Holy Spirit descends, indwells believers and ushers in the church age. Key points to remember are:
- Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would come and live in believers’ hearts (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7), and He said it would happen soon after His ascension (Acts 1:4-5).
- The Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost as Jews from all over the world gathered in Israel (Acts 2:5). They heard the sound of a rushing, mighty wind and came together to investigate it (Acts 2:6). In this way, God began to use believers, indwelled by the Holy Spirit, to be His witnesses, beginning in Jerusalem (Acts 1:8). The 3,000 saved on the Day of Pentecost were Jews.
- While unleavened bread symbolizes Jesus’ sinless humanity (Luke 22:19), the two loaves used at Shavuot / Pentecost contain yeast and symbolize that the Body of Christ (the church) would be made up of sinners.
- The two loaves used at Shavuot also symbolize Jews and Gentiles, demonstrating the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham to bless all the nations through him (Gen. 12:3; see Gal. 3:26-28).
- Just as faithful Jews brought the firstfruits of their wheat harvest to the Temple on Shavuot, so the 3,000 Jewish believers on the Day of Pentecost were the firstfruits of the church.
- One of Jesus’ parables about the kingdom of heaven refers to wheat and tares – a message that the true church, like wheat, would exist along with false professors of the faith, like tares, until Christ returns and separates them (Matt. 13:24-30; 34-43).
Next: The Feast of Trumpets
Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips
Jesus rose from the dead on the third day of Passover season (Nisan 16), on the day of Firstfruits, completing the prophetic picture the spring feasts painted of His work of redemption: death (Passover), burial (Unleavened Bread), and resurrection (Firstfruits). Paul proclaims in 1 Cor. 15:20-22: “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man [Adam], the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man [Jesus]. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ will all be made alive.
As Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal point out, “The resurrection of Jesus is the guarantee and the beginning (firstfruits) of the final harvest, or resurrection, of all mankind. The Messiah fulfilled the prophetic meaning of this holy day by rising from the dead to become the firstfruits of the resurrection, and He did it on the very day of Firstfruits.” (The Feasts of the Lord: God’s Prophetic Calendar from Calvary to the Kingdom, p. 86)
Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips
Firstfruits marks the beginning of the cereal grain harvests in Israel. Of the crops sown in winter, barley is the first grain to ripen. For the Feast of Firstfruits, a sheaf (a bundle of stalks tied together) of barley is harvested and brought to the Temple as a thanksgiving offering to the Lord. It represents the entire barley harvest and serves as a pledge that the rest of the harvest will be brought in. Keep in mind that Passover occurs on the 14th day of Nisan; Unleavened Bread begins on the 15th day of Nisan and goes for seven days; and Firstfruits takes place on the 16th day of Nisan.
Firstfruits is seen primarily as a time marker. It marks the beginning of the grain harvest in Israel. It also marks the countdown to the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), which is celebrated 50 days after Firstfruits. As a result, this period of time is known as the Sefirat Ha-Omer (“the counting of the omer”) because of the ritual of counting the days from Firstfruits to Pentecost.
Jesus rose from the dead on the third day of Passover season (Nisan 16), on the day of Firstfruits, completing the prophetic picture the spring feasts painted of His work of redemption: death (Passover), burial (Unleavened Bread) and resurrection (Firstfruits). Paul proclaims in 1 Cor. 15:20-22: “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man [Adam], the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man [Jesus]. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” As Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal point out, “The resurrection of Jesus is the guarantee and the beginning (firstfruits) of the final harvest, or resurrection, of all mankind. The Messiah fulfilled the prophetic meaning of this holy day by rising from the dead to become the firstfruits of the resurrection, and He did it on the very day of Firstfruits.” (The Feasts of the Lord: God’s Prophetic Calendar from Calvary to the Kingdom, p. 86)
Copyright 2008 by Rob Phillips