The Astounding Saga
Astonishing New Insight
On the Significance of
There is much more to the observance of Shavuot
-- or Pentecost -- than meets the eye at first glance!
How should this most mysterious of all the annual
Holy Days be observed? Why is it the only holy
day whose date is ambiguous in the Scriptures?
Why do we "count fifty" in its anticipation?
William F. Dankenbring
The festival of Shavuot -- or Pentecost, which means "fiftieth day" -- is the most mysterious of all God's annual holy days. It is cloaked in mystery -- and even the date of its observance is highly controversial!
Why is there more argument over this holy day than any other -- with the possible exception of Passover?
The ancient Sadducees claimed this holy day always fell on a Sunday -- counted fifty days from the weekly Sabbath falling within the seven-day festival of Unleavened Bread. The Pharisees, however, claimed it fell on the fiftieth day after the Passover holy day -- the first day of Unleavened Bread! Modern end-time remnants of God's Church get all mixed up on both how to count, and when to count from -- so most of them wind up observing this day on a Sunday every year -- the very day the Roman Catholic Church observes "Whitsunday," their Pentecost, counting fifty days from Easter Sunday! The pagan influence of such a practice should be obvious from the very bare facts!
I have written many articles showing that the Sunday-Sadducee reckoning of Pentecost cannot be right -- it is totally in error. To summarize the evidence that this is actual fact, consider the following evidence:
Proof as to the Date of Pentecost
Jesus Christ said the Sadducees were, on the whole, ignorant of the Scriptures. He admonished them, "Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God" (Matt.22:29). Should God's people then follow the Sadduccean reasoning?
Jesus further said we should not look to the Sadducees for guidance in spiritual matters -- at no time and in no place did He ever sanction or approve of the Sadducees! But, on the contrary, He plainly said of the Pharisees: "The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: ALL THEREFORE whatsoever they bid you observe, THAT OBSERVE and do; but do not ye after their works [
their hypocrisy and vain traditions]: for they say [keep the Law], and do not" (Matt.23:2-3).
Jesus plainly showed the Pharisees had authority which came down from Moses' time and authority. They were the official, sanctioned interpreters of the Law. Therefore, when it comes to God's Law, the dates of holy days, and the calendar, their rule was the official word -- except where their determinations clearly differed with and conflicted with the words of Christ Himself! This passage would clearly imply that the Pharisees are the ones we should follow when it comes to observing the date of Pentecost!
In support of this conclusion, the apostle
Paul also points out that he himself was a Pharisee, and had been taught
"according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers" (Acts
22:3). He had, in fact, been brought up
"at the feet of Gamaliel," one of the most highly respected Pharisee
"rabbans," or chief rabbis (same verse). Paul later told the church at
The only question, then, is what day did the Pharisees sanction for Pentecost, or Shavuot?
The answer is very clear in all historical references. The Pharisees counted fifty days from the Passover! Therefore, the correct date for Pentecost would be fifty days from Nisan 16. During ancient times, when the months of the Hebrew year could have 29 or 30 days, therefore, Pentecost could fall on either Sivan 5, 6, or 7! Today, with the Jewish calendar now in use, it always falls on Sivan 6, and whatever day of the week Sivan 6 falls upon!
Josephus, the Jewish historian of the first century, makes this plain. He wrote in Antiquities of the Jews: "But on the second day of unleavened bread, which is the sixteenth day of the month, they first partake of the fruits of the earth, for before that day they do not touch them. And while they suppose it proper to honor God, from whom they obtain this plentiful provision, in the first place, they offer the first fruits of their barley, and that in the manner following: They take a handful of the ears, and dry them, then beat them small, and purge the barley from the bran; they then bring one tenth deal to the altar, to God: and, casting one handful of it upon the fire, they leave the rest for the use of the priest; and after this it is that they may publicly or privately reap their harvest They also at this participation of the first-fruits of the earth, sacrifice a lamb, as a burnt offering to God.
"When a week of weeks has
passed over after this sacrifice, (which weeks contain forty and nine days,) on
the fiftieth day, which is Pentecost . . . ." (Josephus,
Alfred Edersheim, in The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, declares, "The expression, 'the morrow after the Sabbath,' has sometimes been misunderstood as implying that the presentation of the so-called 'first sheaf' was to be always made on the day following the weekly Sabbath of the Passover-week. This view, adopted by the 'Boethusians,' and the Sadducees of the time of Christ . . . rests on a misinterpretation of the word 'Sabbath.' As in analogous allusions to the other feasts in the same chapter [Leviticus 23], it means not the weekly Sabbath, but the day of the festival. The testimony of Josephus, Philo, and of Jewish tradition, leaves no room to doubt that in this instance we are to understand by the 'Sabbath' the 15th of Nisan, on whatever day of the week it may fall" (p.257).
Finally, as a proof that indeed the fifty days are counted from the day after the Passover holy day, Nisan 15, we can cite the evidence from the Septuagint (LXX), which was translated from the Hebrew into Greek by leading orthodox Jewish scholars around 250 years before the time of Christ. More and more, in recent years, scholars have come to see that the Septuagint is actually based on an ancient version of the Hebrew Scriptures much in use during the time of Christ. In fact, most quotations in the New Testament are from the Septuagint! Since this translation was made long before there were any Sadducees or Pharisees in existence (those schools of religious teaching did not develop until after the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, circa 165 B.C.), its authority in this matter is of very ancient authenticity and credibility.
In the passage dealing with the offering of the wave sheaf, and the counting of the days after that till Pentecost, found in Leviticus 23, the Septuagint translates as follows: "In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, between the evening times is the Lord's passover. And on the fifteenth day of this month is the feast of unleavened bread. And the first day shall be a holy convocation to you . . . And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying . . . When ye shall enter into the land which I give you, and reap the harvest of it, then shall ye bring a sheaf, the first-fruits of your harvest to the priest; and he shall lift up the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you. On the morrow of the FIRST DAY the priest shall lift it up. . . . And ye shall number to yourselves FROM the day after the sabbath, FROM the day on which ye shall offer the sheaf of the heave-offering, SEVEN FULL WEEKS: until the morrow after the last week ye shall number FIFTY DAYS. . ." (LXX, Lev.23:5-16). The "first day" mentioned in this passage obviously refers to the first day of Unleavened Bread -- Nisan 15. The "morrow" after this day would have to be Nisan 16. Thus the "count" to Shavuot or Pentecost begins Nisan 16. Fifty days later, on the Jewish calendar, brings us to Sivan 6, and whatever day of the week that occurs upon!
So much for the "Sunday" Pentecosters! They are barking up the wrong tree. They have ignored or never looked at all this clear cut evidence which proves them wrong. Or, on the other hand, they have blinded themselves to the truth in order to maintain their own human (church) "traditions" of men! Jesus Christ says to them, "Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? . . . But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matt.15:3, 9).
Observing Pentecost -- a New Look
But Pentecost is not only observed on the wrong day, by most Messianic Jewish believers, as well as most Christian groups, which claim to observe God's Holy Days, its vital message is also not generally understood, and its observance is done with little or no understanding!
What is the real meaning of this Holy Day? What is its vital significance in God's Plan?
In the Scriptures it is called Shavuot, which means "Weeks" (Deut.16:10). That is, it takes its name as "Feast of Weeks" because it culminates the counting of the weeks that lead up to it! (Deut.16:9-10).
But how many believers and "Christians," or even Sabbath-keeping Christians, do you know who faithfully "count the omer" every year, between Passover and leading up to Pentecost? How many? Or, should I say, how few?
Indeed, as Jesus Christ/Yeshua Himself said: "Enter ye in at the strait [narrow] gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matt.7:13-14).
One major reason so many Christians are ignorant of these things, and the Biblical commands to "count the omer," and to observe Shavuot/Pentecost, is because of much latent and deeply hidden feelings of anti-Semitism -- hostility toward anything and everything "Jewish" in nature! Yet, Jesus Christ Himself declared, unequivocally, "Salvation is of the Jews" (John ).
Shavuot or Pentecost is also called, in the Scriptures, "the day of First-fruits" (Num.28:26), as well as "the feast of harvest, of the first-fruits of thy labours" (Exo.23:16), and "the feast of weeks, of the first-fruits of wheat harvest" (Exo.34:22). Why the emphasis on "first-fruits"?
Few indeed understand it, but Pentecost or Shavuot pictures, in a sublime and amazing way, the Christian's journey through life, leading up to the second coming of the Messiah! Passover pictures our repentance, and forgiveness of sin, and acceptance of Christ as our "sacrificial lamb" -- the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world (John ). Christ is our "Passover," sacrificed for us (I Cor.5:7). The Israelites'
journey out of Egypt -- a type of "sin" and bondage to sinful human nature -- pictures the Christian or Messianic believer's journey as a believer in the Messiah, coming out of sin, and wickedness, and journeying forward through the desert -- a type of this world's tangles, troubles, trials, and temptations.
Finally, the Israelite's standing before Mount Sinai, as God came down to the mountain-top, and revealed Himself to them, and entered into a binding covenant with them as His people, was also a type -- a type of the second coming of the Messiah in an awesome blaze of glory, to gather His saints, to marry them as His virtuous "bride," and to punish the evil and rebellious nations of the world!
"First Coming" at
Among the Jewish people, the festival of Pentecost, or
Shavuot, celebrates as well the time of the giving of the Law, the Torah, by
On the third month, which is Sivan,
on the third day of the month, they came to the "wilderness of Sinai"
(Exo.19:3). On this day Moses went up to
God on the mount, and God offered to make
Careful calculation shows that the
"third day" here would have been Sivan 6 -- the very day of
Pentecost! God came down, in glory, and
met with the people, and gave them His inexpressible, glorious Covenant,
summarized in the Ten Commandments -- and they became His official "bride,"
entering a marriage covenant with them (Jeremiah ). Therefore,
Pentecost is connected in the Scriptures with ancient
Moses recorded of this spectacular event: "And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in FIRE: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder . . . And the LORD came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount" (Exo.19:18-20).
We tend to read over these Scriptures and fail to register their awesome portent!
This awesome event was a very type of the second coming of CHRIST the Messiah!
Notice! God came down to earth -- to the top of a
mountain! At this time, He made His
Because of this wickedness, when
Moses returned from communing with God on the top of mount Sinai, he broke the
tablets containing the Ten "Devarim" or Ten Words of God -- commonly
called the "Ten commandments."
If he had delivered the tablets to
What does this have to do with Christians, and believers in the Messiah?
Pentecost and the Bride and Redemption
The Feast of Pentecost is a Type
of Redemption! The counting of fifty
days from Passover to Pentecost is a type of the life of overcoming and
enduring to the end. For the Jewish
people, observant Jews, this period of time has always represented a period of
maturing relationship between
In truth, our acceptance of Christ represented our "betrothal" to Him, as part of His bride-to-be, spiritually. The Church, in Scripture, is referred to as the "bride of Christ." Paul says to the Corinthians, "For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (II Cor.11:2). God says, "And I will betroth thee to me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in
faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD" (Hosea -20).
Christ is going to present a wife to Himself, "in her virginity" (Lev.21:13). As Paul wrote, Christ Jesus "loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph.4:25-27).
Therefore, when the Messiah returns from heaven, He will take the saints -- the true believers in Him, who follow and obey Him -- as His bride forever! At His coming, John tells us in the book of Revelation, He will take His bride to Himself: "Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb and his wife is come, and his wife hath made herself READY. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God" (Rev.19:6-9).
This same bride, the "first-fruits" to God and to the Lamb, are pictured also in Revelation 14, where we read: "And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Zion, and with him an hundred and forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads (the name YAHVEH, or in the Hebrew, hwhy]. . . . And they sung as it were a new song before the throne . . . and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which are not defiled with women; and they are [spiritual] virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were REDEEMED from among men, BEING THE FIRSTFRUITS UNTO GOD, and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God" (Rev.14:1-5).
This is the picture of the true BRIDE OF CHRIST, ready to meet Him when He comes! Will you be among them? Are you becoming purified -- made white? Are you being clothed with righteousness -- which is keeping the commandments of God (Psalm 119:172)? Are you a spiritual "virgin," uncomtaminated by the pagan teachings and falsehoods of this world, and its Babylonian whorish religious "traditions"? Are you also "without guile"? Think about it!
These are the "first-fruits"!
These are the ones pictured by the harvest festival of Pentecost -- the feast of Weeks!
Parable of the Ten Virgins
When God came down to mount Sinai, in blazing glory and power, the trumpet blew with a resounding sound, growing louder and louder! It, also, was a "type."
When the Messiah comes for His bride, pictured by Pentecost, we read:
"Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took
their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were
wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took
no oil with them: but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
"While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at
there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said
unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out [or, "going out"].
But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you:
but go ye rather to them that buy and sell, and buy for yourselves.
"And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were READY
went with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
"Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he
answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore,
for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh"
Let us examine this parable. Again, the church is compared to a BRIDE -- ten virgins, who are awaiting their Lord's return. The wise ones are prepared and ready -- they have "oil" in their lamps. The oil is a type of God's Holy Spirit, that flows through the candelabra -- the seven pipes of the menorah, a type of God's Church (Zech.4:2-6; Rev.1:20).
When the bridegroom returns, a "cry" is made. "The bridegroom cometh!" What will that coming be like?
The Awesome Second Coming
Let us notice what happens when Christ Jesus/Yeshua the Messiah returns to this earth. A few key Scriptures tell us the story:
"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the
VOICE OF THE ARCHANGEL, and with the trumpet of God: and the
dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall
be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air:
and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (I Thess.4:14-17).
"Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be
CHANGED, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, AT THE LAST
TRUMPET: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised
incorruptible, and we shall be changed, for this corruptible must put on
incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (I Cor.15:51-52).
"Immediately AFTER the TRIBULATION of those days, shall the sun be
darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall
from heaven [comets, meteor showers], and the powers of the heavens
shall be shaken: AND THEN shall appear the sign of the Son of man
in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall
SEE the Son of man COMING in the clouds of heaven with power and
great glory. And he shall send his angels, with a GREAT SOUND OF
A TRUMPET, and they shall GATHER TOGETHER HIS ELECT from
the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other [that is, from around
the world!]" (Matt.24:29-31).
Let us notice carefully, now! Pentecost pictures both the first coming of God, to mount Sinai, in glory and splendor, with earthquakes and fire, and the long blasting sound of a piercing trumpet (Exodus 19:18-20). But it also pictures the great SECOND coming of Christ, the Messiah, in awesome glory and splendor, to judge and reward His saints, who will be gathered to meet Him in the air, from around the world, as He returns "like fire" -- as the "lightning" -- "For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (Matt.24:27).
Before both comings is the loud clarion call of a TRUMPET! At both comings, God comes down TO EARTH, and stands upon a mountain top! (see Exo.19:20; Zech.14:4; Acts 1:9-11). At His first coming, to mount Sinai,, the people SAW Him coming (Exo.19:11). At His second coming, "Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him" (Rev.1:7).
Will Christ Return in a Secret "Rapture"?
Now, before going further, notice seven things about the second coming of the Messiah. Many people today believe that when He comes, He will secretly "spirit away" all the true Christians to heaven in a massive "rapture" attack. That is, Christians around the world will suddenly disappear, no matter where they are or what they are doing. Christian pilots will disappear from airplanes, Christian motorists will suddenly disappear from behind the steering wheel of automobiles, or even "big rigs," causing devastating auto accidents. Christian surgeons will suddenly disappear, while performing open heart surgery -- and Christian nurses, and so forth. You get the idea.
But is this idea true?
The lessons of Pentecost prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that these modern day "Christian" stories and ideas are nothing but fables and myths! The Scriptures do not allow for any "secret rapture" of the saints before the Great Tribulation! Let's study and review the actual Biblical evidence on this matter!
Seven Proofs the Secret Rapture is Ridiculous
Here are seven powerful proofs that the commonly held and virtually idolized "rapture theory" is totally untrue:
1) First of all, the descent of God to the top of mount Sinai clearly did not involve or describe SOME "SECRET RAPTURE" of the nation of Israel -- yet it was a TYPE of the Second Coming of Christ! When God came down to mount Sinai, He came down ONCE! And He came in glorious power and splendor (Exodus 19:9-11).
Even so, when Christ returns to this earth, He is coming ONCE MORE -- NOT TWICE MORE! And when He comes, He is coming in GLORY, and splendor! Matthew tells us: "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him . . ." (Matt.25:31).
2) Secondly, when He comes, His coming will be accompanied by a TRUMPET BLAST, even as His coming to mount Sinai was accompanied by a loud trumpet blast! Again, there is no way this can be SECRET! The blast of the trumpet is meant to be HEARD! It is a clarion call to ANNOUNCE the presence of the KING MESSIAH! (I Cor.15:51-52; I Thess.4:14-17).
3) When the Messiah comes, His coming will be accompanied with the LOUD VOICE of a SHOUTING ARCHANGEL! Again, this is not some mystical "silent" shout, or a whisper of some sort! A SHOUT is a SHOUT! A shout is the lifting up of the voice to a high powerful pitch, and much volume and noise! A "shout" is meant to be heard! (I Thess.4:14-17).
4) Finally, when the Messiah comes, He will then -- at that time -- gather His saints, the living and the dead, who will rise to meet Him in the air -- and then return to earth with His as His feel stand upon the Mount of Olives! This means that the saints are on the earth, when He comes -- they are NOT up in heaven! When He comes, He sends His angels to GATHER them from the four winds, from every direction, on the earth! (Matt.24:31).
5) When Christ Messiah comes, He will not come "part way" -- and then return up to heaven with His saints! Rather, when He comes, He will come ALL THE WAY DOWN TO EARTH -- and will STAND upon a mountain top, even as He did at Sinai! There was no "dipsy doodle" coming to earth at that time -- nor will there be in the future. Christ will not come like a "yo yo" -- going down, up and down again! Rather, as the Scriptures tell us:
"Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the
midst of thee. And I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle . . .
Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he
fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall STAND IN THAT DAY UPON
THE MOUNT OF OLIVES, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the
mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof . . . ." (Zech.14:1-4).
Notice! When the Messiah comes, His feet will stand upon the Mount of Olives on that very day of His coming! Not weeks, months, or years later! Isn't this PLAIN?
6) Further evidence of this is given in the New Testament book of Acts, where the gospel writer Luke tells us of the ascension of Christ into heaven, in full view of the disciples:
"And when he [Christ] had spoken all these things, WHILE THEY BEHELD,
HE WAS TAKEN UP; and a CLOUD received him out of their sight. And
while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men
stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand
ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into
heaven, SHALL SO COME IN LIKE MANNER AS YE HAVE SEEN HIM GO
INTO HEAVEN" (Acts 1:9-11).
Now let's get this, and get it good! Was Jesus secretly "raptured" out of their sight, invisibly? NO! Not at all! He was taken up into heaven IN A CLOUD, and they SAW Him ascending,
as they WATCHED with their eyes gazing steadfastly on Him, as He disappeared into the remote heavens! And take careful note! The two angels told them that when He returns, it will be in the VERY SAME MANNER as they SAW Him go into heaven!
Clearly, then, Jesus will NOT come in some clandestine, secret, invisible manner in which nobody will notice or see him. Rather, the WHOLE WORLD WILL SEE HIM -- AND WILL SHAKE WITH HORROR AND FEAR!
7) Finally, there is one respect in which Christ's coming will be "like a thief in the night" (Rev.16:15). That is, in regard to the TIME of His coming! Although most thieves who come at night, seek to hide their activity from prying eyes, when Jesus Christ returns He will not "hide" Himself at all. But His coming will be "like a thief" in the respect that no one will know PRECISELY WHEN HE IS GOING TO COME!
Jesus Himself said, "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also READY: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh" (Matt.24:42-44).
Pentecost, the only Festival of God which has a "movable date," is the perfect picture and type of the "second coming of Christ," because -- like Pentecost, in the ancient Jewish calendar -- the second coming of Christ could occur on a number of different dates, and we do not know for certain exactly when He will return!
Thus, even in this respect, Pentecost, or "Shavuot," the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of heightening expectation and anticipation, as we count down the days and weeks before it comes, Pentecost is a unique symbol of the second coming of the Messiah!
The Early and Latter Rains
The early church observed the Feast of Pentecost. The apostle Paul bode his friends farewell at Ephesus, in Asia Minor, saying, "I must by all means keep this Feast [Pentecost] that cometh in Jerusalem" (Acts 18:21). We read later, that Paul "hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost" (Acts 20:16). Why the urgency? Why Pentecost? Obviously, because Paul desired to observe this Holy Day in Jerusalem, at the Temple!
Interestingly, the early church actually began on the Holy Day of Pentecost. We read in Acts, chapter 1, that Jesus Christ told the disciples before He parted, and was taken up into heaven, that they should "NOT depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.
For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence" (Acts 1:4-5).
A review of the dates shows that this statement was made on the 27th of Iyar, the second month of the Jewish calendar (corresponding to our May 13, this year). It was the 40th day since Christ had first appeared to the disciples following His resurrection (Acts 1:3). Thus, since Pentecost would come on Sivan 6th, this was eight days before Pentecost! (the month Iyar has 29 days). Was Jesus telling His disciples, in effect, to wait until Pentecost?
In Acts, chapter 2, we find a most remarkable occurrence, fulfilling the promise and prophecy of Christ. Notice!
"And when the day of Pentecost was FULLY COME, they were all with
one accord in one place [together]. And suddenly there came a sound from
heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they
were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire,
and it sat upon each of them. And they were ALL FILLED WITH THE
HOLY SPIRIT, and began to speak with other tongues [languages], as the
Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews,
devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised
abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that
every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed
and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak
Galileans? And how hear we every man in his own tongue, wherein we
were born? . . . .And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one
to another, What meaneth this?" (Acts 2:1-12).
On the first Pentecost, in Moses' day, when God came down on top of mount Sinai, and delivered the Decalogue to mankind, His appearance was accompanied with "fire" (Exo.19:18). And on this first Pentecost following the ascension of Christ the Messiah into heaven, there was again a mighty display of power from heaven -- tongues which appeared as "like as of fire," and a rushing mighty wind, like a tornado (Acts 2:2-3).
In his sermon on that day, Peter explained the phenomenon which had just occurred to the assembled multitude, saying, "This is that which was spoken of by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass, in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of MY SPIRIT upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall
prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapours of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts 2:16-18).
What Peter quoted was a prophecy by the prophet Joel, about 800 years before that time, which foretold the very end of the age. Yet God inspired Peter to draw from that prophecy to explain the miraculous events of that Pentecost! God's Spirit was poured out on His people then, even as it will be poured out once more during our end-time generation, before the coming of the dreadful and awesome "Day of the Lord"!
That event was the "early rain" of God's Spirit. But soon, now, we are going to see and witness and experience the fulfillment of the "LATTER RAIN" of God's Holy Spirit! The prophet Hosea foretold:
"Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal
us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After TWO DAYS will he revive
us: in the THIRD DAY he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. Then
shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared
as the morning; and he shall COME unto us, as the RAIN, as the LATTER and
FORMER RAIN unto the earth" (Hosea 6:1-3).
What is this talking about? A "day" with God is as a thousand years (II Pet.3:8-10). The Jewish nation was smitten when it rejected the Messiah in 30 A.D., and He was crucified to fulfill Biblical prophecy (Dan.9:24-26). Two days is 2,000 years. This is a prophecy that after about two millennia, or 2,000 years, from the time God began punishing His people for their rebellion and rejection of the Messiah, they would begin to return to Him, and confess their sins, and at that time He would begin to intervene, to heal their wounds, and to bind them up! This is speaking of OUR AGE, TODAY! According to Jewish eschatology, from 4 B.C. to 1997, is the "age of the Messiah," or "Messianic age." At the end of this period, in the beginning of the "third day," or third thousand year period, "we will LIVE in his sight." This speaks of the second coming of the Messiah!
Note that the prophecy goes on to point out that this is discussing the "going forth of the LORD" -- that is, of His coming to earth from heaven! And notice, it says He shall "come to us" TWICE -- "as the rain, as the latter and former rain UNTO
THE EARTH" (Hosea 6:33).
Christ came as the "former rain" in 27-30 A.D. Upon His ascension into heaven, on the following day of Pentecost, He sent the former rain -- His Holy Spirit -- upon His disciples!
Christ is coming once again -- this time as the "latter rain." And prior to His coming, He will once again send forth the "rain" of His Holy Spirit upon His disciples! He will once again send His Holy Spirit with POWER upon His true disciples!
Luke records that before Christ departed to heaven, He told His disciples:
"Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from
the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be
preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are
witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon
you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be ENDUED WITH
POWER FROM ON HIGH" (Luke 24:46-49).
Luke shows that they waited eight days. And on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples with enormous power and miraculous energy!
But Jesus gave the disciples final instructions, which also apply to us, of this generation. He declared: "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive POWER, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: And ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:7-8).
The time of the "latter rain" is almost upon us!
The Real Meaning of Pentecost
According to Jewish tradition, Pentecost is the day the fruit of trees is judged in heaven. Thus it pictures the judgment of the "first-fruits." True believers and followers of the Messiah are the "first-fruits" to God of all the people of the world (see James 1:18; Rom.16:5; Rom.8:9-10, 23). We are to be "bearing fruit" (John 15:16). We will be judged according to our fruitfulness!
We read in The Jewish Festivals: History and Observance, by Hayyim Schauss, of Pentecost, or Shavuot:
"It is the festival when home and synagogue are decked in green, and all the
world is fragrant with plants and flowers, for it occurs in the most beautiful
and balmiest season of the year. . . .
"The word Shavuos means weeks, and was therefore used to designate the festival
that ended the weeks of the grain harvest. . . The grain harvest started with the reap-
ing of the barley and after seven weeks ended with the cutting of the wheat, an
occasion for a festive holiday. . . .
"The beginning of the grain harvest was marked by the sacrifice at the sanctuary,
of the omer, the first sheave of the newly cut barley; fifty days later, at the close
of the harvest period, two loaves of bread, baked from the wheat of the new crop,
were offered as a sacrifice. This bread-offering was called 'the first-fruits of the
wheat harvest,' and the festival was therefore also called Yom ha-Bikkurim, the
day of offering the first loaves of the new crop to God" (p.86-87).
The festival of Shavuot is the only Jewish festival "for which there is no fixed date, and it was therefore a matter of great discussion in the period of the Second Temple" (ibid.).
In principle, however, we see that this Feast must occur at the end of barley harvest, when the "first-fruits" of the harvest, known as the "omer," have been completed -- and it cannot occur until the first of the wheat harvest is ready, so that the two loaves of the "first-fruits" of wheat may be offered. This period of fifty days allows for the full maturation of the barley harvest, and also for the beginning of the wheat harvest.
What lesson can we learn from this? Christ, the Messiah, cannot return to this earth until the first-fruits of the spiritual crop are ready! That is, His return, which is symbolized by the Feast of Pentecost, cannot occur UNTIL THE BRIDE HAS MADE HERSELF READY! (Rev.19:7)!
When the harvest is ready, in the eyes of the Father, the Messiah will return -- with shouts of acclamation and joy!
Hayyim Schauss goes on:
"According to the Pharisees, therefore, it was necessary to offer the omer on
the sixteenth day of Nisan; Shavuos, therefore, coming on the sixth day of
"The Pharisaic tendency became standardized as the procedure for Orthodox
Judaism, and to this very day Orthodox Jews begin 'counting' S'firah, on the
second day of Pesach. The S'firah is a form of benediction in connection with
which the fifty days between the supposed offering of the omer and the obser-
vanvce of Shavuos are counted. Daily, after the evening prayers, the days and
weeks are counted off and the fiftieth day is Shavuos" (p.88).
"It appears that as far back as the days of the second Temple, Shavuos was a
twofold festival. It was the festival of the wheat harvest, when a sacrifice was
offered from the new wheat crop; it was also considered the observance of the
pact entered into between God and mankind. . . . The festival is celebrated,
according to [the book of Jubilees], as a symbol of the pact God made with Noah,
in which he promised no future general flood, is renewed each year" (p.89).
Does the observance of Pentecost go back to the covenant God made with Noah never again to flood the whole earth with a Deluge, in punishment for sins? It is a fact that the observance of the day became closely interlinked with the giving of the Torah, because the Law of God was given on mount Sinai upon that very day -- Sivan 6 -- and the marriage covenant God entered into with Israel at that time.
Pentecost and the Book of Jubilees
However, the book of Jubilees does claim that originally the observance of this Holy Day does go back to Noah's time -- and even before! From the time of Creation itself, God said that He established the sun, moon and stars in the heavens to be "for signs, and for seasons (Hebrew moadim, meaning also "fixed times" or "festivals"), and for days, and years" (Gen.1:14). We read in the book of Jubilees:
"And he gave to Noah and his sons a sign that there should not again be a
deluge over the earth; he placed his bow in the clouds as a sign of the eternal
covenant that no water of the deluge should again come over the earth to destroy
it all the days of the earth.
"On this account it is also ordained and written on the tablets of heaven that the
celebration of the festival of weeks should be in this month, once a year, for a
renewed covenant in each year and year. And during the time this festival was
being celebrated in heaven, from the days of creation to the days of Noah . . . and
Noah and his sons observed it . . . until the time when Noah died. But his children
violated it until the days of Abraham, and they ate blood. But Abraham alone
observed it, and Isaac and Jacob observed it, for these are his children. . . . and in
thy [Moses'] day the children of Israel forgot it until I renewed it for them on
this mountain. And thou command the children of Israel that they should observe
this festival in all their generations as a commandment for them one day in the year,
in this month, they shall celebrate this festival. For it is the festival of weeks and is
a festival of first-fruits; for this festival is of a double nature and double kind, as it
is written and engraved concerning its celebration" (Jubilees 6:14-19).
The book of Jubilees was written about a century before the time of Christ, and seems to reflect a great deal of oral history and ancient Jewish beliefs handed down from generation to generation. It provides an astonishing glimpse into the hidden history of God's Holy Days.
Notice that the book of Jubilees emphasizes the "covenantal' aspect of the feast of Shavuot, or Pentecost! This covenantal concept is the real grist -- the true inner depth-- of this awesome Holy Day!
Pentecost -- the Day of the Covenant
As the Israelites witnessed God's own Presence at mount Sinai, and heard the living God speak to them directly, from the mountain, we can only faintly imagine their emotions, their feelings, their transformation in the presence of the Almighty. Says Joel Ziff in Mirrors in Time, "The Israelites fully and directly experienced God's Essence and Presence at Mount Sinai. In this respect, as we hear the Word of God, our old understanding dies, creating a possibility for new learning" (p.111).
"This change in consciousness is symbolically noted in the description of how
the Israelites 'heard' the lightning and 'saw' the thunder at Sinai, as it says in
the Torah: 'All the people saw the sounds' (Exodus 20:13). They now can see
and hear what was previously unknown, hidden, and heard only from a distance"
How is it that the people "saw the thunderings," and "the noise of the trumpets" (Exodus 10:18)? Can we really ever "see" a "sound"? Actually, the answer is yes -- when in a higher state of consciousness, attuned to the presence of God, and His Spirit, a combined form of seeing and hearing can occur -- a deeper awareness of sight and sound. The senses can become integrated in a unique way, leading to greater awareness and perceptivity. Writes Avraham Yaakov Finkel in The Essence of the Holy Days,
"It occurs in an individual who is capable of rising above the limitations of the
senses. Such a person can see sound and hear a vision. A prophet can do this.
When receiving divine prophecy, the prophet divests himself of his corporeality,
and his sense of hearing and vision blend into one. At Mount Sinai, after under-
going fifty days of spiritual refinement, the children of Israel attained the level of
prophecy. They 'saw the sounds,' and thereby the belief in God was anchored in
their hearts" (p.188).
Pentecost and Transcendental Change
The children of Israel were so attuned to God, at that moment, that when God asked them if they would obey His covenant, they replied in unison, together, "Naaseh venishma!" That is, "We will do and we will hear" (Exodus 24:7). Consider this! They were so close to God, at that moment, that there was no hesitancy or doubt in their minds. They not only agreed to "do" God's Law, and keep His commandments, but they agreed to DO it even before HEARING it! They said "we will do it," and then said, afterward, "we will hear it"! This exemplified real faith and commitment!
The "Pentecost experience" had already begun to change them, and their entire outlook on life. One may ask, How can you do something before you even hear it? Avraham Finkel states:
"Look at it this way. For example, if you want to open a door, you certainly don't
have to tell your hand, 'Turn the knob.' Your head and your mind encompass all
your limbs, and if your mind wants to take a certain action, your hand instinctively
senses this without being told specifically.
"At the Giving of the Torah, there existed a perfect union between the Holy One,
blessed is He, and the people of Israel. God was the Head of the nation. Consequently,
when God wanted Israel to accept the Torah, the entire nation sensed what was asked
of them. There was no need to teach them the specific details of the Torah" (p.196).
In this state of close union with God, they accepted His Torah in faith -- in complete submission and commitment to do His will. They did not have to have it all spelled out first!
Says Joel Ziff on the Sinai experience:
"The experience at Mount Sinai is described using the image of a wedding in which
God is the groom standing under the marriage canopy -- the chuppah -- with the
Israelites as the bride. God and Israel make an eternal commitment to one another.
God gives the Torah, and the Israelites pledge to adhere to its precepts. A wedding
represents the BEGINNING of a relationship. Although vows are made, the young
couple must still struggle to translate those vows into reality, overcoming differences
and difficulties. In the same way, the commitment made at Sinai also represents a
beginning of relationship. There are many difficulties to overcome: shortly after
Moses ascends Mount Sinai, the Israelites make the golden calf, losing trust and
violating their commitment.
"This beginning is also symbolized by the offering of the first ripe fruits that begins
at this time . . . . For this reason, Shavuot is also known as Yom HaBikkurim, the
day of the first fruits. We not only harvest the agricultural produce; we also begin
to nourish ourselves with the fruits of our learning.
"This same quality of commitment is reflected in the story of Ruth, which is read
during the Shavuot service. Ruth, the ancestor of King David, is respected because
of her commitment and devotion in caring for her mother-in-law Naomi. . . .
"The images of Shavuot allow us to receive a personal revelation that transforms
our understanding, help us clarify a vision of our future, and motivate us to make
a commitment to manifest that vision" (Ziff, Mirrors in Time, p.113).
Pentecost, then, represents a "peak experience." It is or should be a true epiphany -- a time of tremendous closeness to God and His revelation. It ought to be a transforming experience -- involving commitment, rededication, renewal of spiritual vows to God, devotion, worship, and reverence. It should be a profound experience, causing us to reach deep down inside ourselves, and truly humbling ourselves before our Mighty God and Everlasting Father, and our Saviour and Messiah.
After working on ourselves for forty nine days, and stripping off the impurities of "Egypt" and the sinful inclinations, and the yetzer hara, the tendencies and impulses to sin and do evil, we stand before God -- ready for a transforming experience -- ready to receive a renewal and an infusion of His Holy Spirit, that will transform us spiritually.
Writes Joel Ziff of this principle:
"On the fiftieth day [Pentecost], an integration occurs that incorporates and
transcends the previous learning. We surrender what we think we know to a
higher understanding. We link the spiritual Essence to the material level of
existence. At this time, all the parts are integrated, subsumed into a larger
oneness. An integration occurs in which the whole is larger than the sum of
its parts" (p.115).
Obviously, there is far more to Pentecost than most of us have remotely imagined!
As we observe this Holy Day of God, we should reflect on our own covenantal relationship with God, and Christ, our Messiah. We should also reflect on the other convenantal relationships in our lives -- husband and wife, parents and children. We should look upon Pentecost as a special day of commitment and covenant renewal, every year.
Pentecost holds the promise of being a key to the transformation process in our lives -- from carnal, earthly, to spiritual, divine. It represents the high peak of revelation and religious experience, contact with God on a person level, in a higher plane.
The apostle Paul says, accordingly, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be ye not conformed to this world,
but BE YE TRANSFORMED by the RENEWING of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Romans 12:1-2).
Among the Jews, especially those from eastern Europe, the whole period from Sivan 1, the festival of the New Moon, to Sivan 6, is replete with joy. The New Moon is a semi-festival in itself, and from it there are only four days until the Feast of Shavuot, or Pentecost. Thus the four in-between days, also, become "minor holidays." Children only attend school for half a day; the three days before Shavuot are "marked off" as the days the Israelites were forbidden to approach the holy mountain, Sinai, and the only remaining day, Sivan 2, was considered significant because on that same day of the week Yom Kippur is bound to fall.
Writes Rabbi Irving Greenburg in The Jewish Way:
"As one approaches the event of Revelation [Sinai-Giving of the Torah-Shavuot],
preparation intensifies. The three days before Shavuot are known as the shloshet
yemay hagbalah, the three boundary days. In the biblical account, Moses instructed
the people to use the three days before the Sinai theophany for purification. The
boundary days act out the historical image as if the contemporary Jews are encamped
three days from Sinai. People get haircuts, buy new clothes, and mourning ceases
in anticipation of the great day. Weddings, another form of covenantal relationship,
are scheduled during this period.
"The holiday is ushered in at nightfall on the fiftieth day. Since Shavuot occurs
in the summertime, the stars come out quite late. Thus, the dictum of the Torah,
'You shall count . . . seven complete weeks,' is fulfilled" (p.82).
As Pentecost approaches, the weather is mild. Says Schauss:
"The sun pours oceans of light warmth upon the town. The trees are green with
leaves and the fields are gay with flowers. The grass is fragrant and makes the heart
feel light and summery. All await the beauteous festival, when Jewish houses are
decked in green, when dairy dishes grace every Jewish table . . . .
"Even in school the instruction is festive and breathes the spirit of the holiday. The
children are taught the Book of Ruth. So clear is the imagery thereof that they are
carried back to the days of old, when Jews reaped the harvest of the fields of their
own land" (p.90-91).
The story of Ruth is especially appropriate for Pentecost for many reasons. It was at Pentecost that Boaz "married" Ruth. It was the beginning of wheat harvest, and Ruth went out into the fields to glean from the harvest of Boaz, her next-of-kinsman. She proposed to him the eve of Pentecost, and he accepted, according to Jewish tradition. The Scriptures clearly reveal it was the beginning of barley harvest when Ruth began gleaning (Ruth 1:22). She continued reaping until the end of barley harvest (Ruth 2:21), which puts the story at the point of Pentecost! Therefore, the connection is obvious (Ruth 2:6-11). The story of Ruth pictures the marriage of the Church, typified by Ruth, the Gentile convert, and Jesus Christ, the Messiah, typified by Boaz, of the tribe of Judah.
According to Jewish legend, Pentecost also pictures the day of the dragon's conflict, when the Messiah will destroy Leviathan, the crooked serpent (see Isaiah 27:1). On Pentecost, the words of Akdomus, a beautiful Aramaic ode composed by the Chazan of Worms in the eleventh century, are chanted in the synagogue, presenting a vivid picture of the day when the coming Messiah will have arrived, ushering in a time of eternal peace and bliss on earth.
Says Hayyim Schauss, as the ode Akdomus is chanted, the children see "the golden thrones, approached by seven stairs; seated on the thrones are the saints, gleaming and shining like the stars of heaven. Above them are spread canopies of light, and below ripple streams of fragrant balsam. There is no end to the joy and happiness of the saints. They dance in Paradise, arm-in-arm with God himself. He entertains them with a mammoth spectacle, arranged especially for them, the combat between the Leviathan and the Behemoth" (p.91-92).
Schauss goes on:
"The teacher tells of the feast which God will prepare after the coming of the
Messiah. . . . He pictures the saints seated around a table made of precious
stones, eating the flesh of the Leviathan and the Behemoth" (p.92).
How interesting! In the book of Revelation we read of a similar "feast," which will be given after the coming of the Messiah. The apostle John records:
"Blessed are they which are called unto the MARRIAGE SUPPER of the Lamb"
"And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying
to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together
unto the supper of the great God; that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh
of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and the flesh of
them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and
great" (Revelation 19:17-18).
What a Feast that is going to be!
The All-Night Vigil on Pentecost Eve
The fact that Jesus Christ told the disciples to "wait" in Jerusalem, and to "tarry" there, until they were to be empowered by God from on high, by receiving the Holy Spirit -- the Spirit of "power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (II Tim.1:6-7) -- is highly significant, because the Jews have an age-old tradition about staying up all night, on the eve of Pentecost, to study the Laws of God, to get in "final preparation" for the "Revelation" of God -- and meeting with God -- which symbolically is to occur on "Pentecost."
The disciples were waiting, no doubt in much anticipation -- both for the coming of Pentecost, as they were faithfully "counting the omer" each day during the seven weeks of seven days each, or 49 days -- and for the expectation of the coming "Promise from on high" -- the Holy Spirit! Was their vigil also connected with the Jewish practice of the intensifying preparation for Pentecost, as the Holy Day approached?
Especially the evening before the great day of the Feast, this preparation among God's peoople intensifies, as the anticipation builds to a climax. Says Rabbi Irving Greenburg:
"There is a custom to stay awake the entire night of Shavuot in preparation
for the Revelation. The kabbalists saw this as time to prepare the bride's
(Israel's) trousseau for the wedding (with God) in the morning. What is the
preparation during this long night? It is the study of Torah, preparing a
Jew for what he or she is about to receive. . . .
"Many congregations today carry on the tradition of all-night study by schedul-
ing various classes and study groups to make the learning more meaningful.
Good all-night sessions are an exciting, if tiring, off-beat learning experience.
Those who stay up all night pray the morning service immediately at daybreak
-- carrying through the symbolic acting out of 'eagerness' and anticipation to
receive the Revelation. The service, which is full of joy and celebration, includes
the chanting of the entire Hallel as on Passover" (The Jewish Way, p.82-83).
In The Three Festivals, by Rabbi Yosef Stern, we discover:
"Throughout the world Jews observe the centuries-old custom of conducting
an all-night vigil dedicated to Torah learning on the first night of Shavuos. . .
One explanation for this tradition is that it compensates for a tragic error com-
mitted by the Jewish nation as they were about to receive the Torah at Sinai:
On the very morning Hashem came to give the Torah, they overslept! Hashem
had to arouse them and remind them that it was time to receive the Ten Com-
mandments. To atone for this blunder, Jews have accepted upon themselves
the custom of remaining awake all night."
One of the reasons for the all-nighter, according to Rabbi Stern, is that it is believed that "the study of the Mosaic books during the night will hasten the arrival of the Messiah." According to Stern, the forty-nine days from Passover to Pentecost represent a time of "spiritual purification (taharah) that grows in intensity during the seven weeks of sephirah" until it reaches a climax on the night of Pentecost, or Shavuot (p.203). During these forty-nine days, we eliminate and get rid of the forty-nine levels or degrees of spiritual contamination and degradation we have accumulated. Thus these are forty-nine days representing forty-nine levels of spiritual purity. Each day we jettison another piece of impurity, another contaminant, another vice, until, after forty-nine days -- seven times seven -- we reach true purity, maturity, and perfection!
Says Rabbi Stern:
"During these days and weeks, our personal efforts to cleanse ourselves of spiritual
impurities are critical. However, if we make sincere efforts during sefirah, we can
be assured that Hashem [God] will shower us with an outpouring of taharah on the
night of Shavuos, as the Sages said (Shabbos 104a) someone who
comes to purify
himself will receive [Divine] help" (p.204).
This "Divine help" is described as an out-pouring of taharah -- divine purification. This help comes to us through the Holy Spirit of God! Jesus Christ declared:
"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my
name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance,
whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26).
"Howbeit when it, the Spirit of truth, is come, it will guide you into all truth: for
it shall not speak of itself; but whatsoever it shall hear, that shall it speak; and it
will shew you things to come" (John 16:13).
Rabbi Stern says that this taharah that descends and comes upon us, as we study Torah and the truths of God's Word, is exceedingly fragile. In his words:
"The Zohar also reminds us that the taharah that descends on those who immerse
themselves in Torah study on this night is a fragile thing. Unless we take active
steps to preserve it throughout the year we cannot be assured that it will remain
with us. . . . Through our efforts during the seven weeks of sefirah we merit the
creation of a 'pure heart' for ourselves. However, it takes the all-night vigilance of
Shavuos to give it permanence and to turn it into a 'steadfast spirit' that will endure
throughout the year" (Stern, The Three Festivals, p.204).
Although the Scriptures do not tell us that we must stay up all night, on the eve of Pentecost, to observe this day, this custom seems to go back to earliest times. And Jesus Christ did tell us, "The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do" (Matt.23:2-3). The staying up all night practice is not a commandment for God's people. Nevertheless, it certainly would not be wrong to do it, as afinal "preparation" for the Day of "Revelation" -- Pentecost!
After counting the "omer" for forty nine days, faithfully, it seems fitting that this "spiritual odyssey," or journey, should be capped off with a special celebration -- a special night of "final preparation" for FINAL EXAMS, as it were -- a night devoted to Bible study, prayer, and meditation, drawing closer to God in preparation for the ULTIMATE PENTECOST PERSPECTIVE -- the soon arrival of our Messianic King and Husband
-- Yeshua Notzri -- Jesus the Nazarene!
In college, or at the university, students often "cram" for finals during the weeks immediately before final exams are to occur. They study extra hard, burn the midnight oil, and sometimes pull an "all-nigher" in order to get that final "term paper" prepared and written and presented on time. They review their class notes, assignments, and previous tests, so that they can be as prepared as possible for "finals."
So it should be with Pentecost. Have we ever looked at it that way before?
Pentecost, in typology, is the time of Final Exams -- the day we will be "judged," and evaluated, by our Teacher, and Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Do you want to flunk the test?
When Christ returns at the seventh and final trumpet (Rev.11:15), He will judge the saints! John writes, "And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be JUDGED, and that thou shouldest give REWARD unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, both small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth" (Revelation 11:18).
The apostle Paul wrote:
"According to the grace of God, which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder,
I have LAID THE FOUNDATION, and another buildeth thereon. But let every
man take heed HOW he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay
than that [which] is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
"Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay,
stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because
it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If
any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any
man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so
as by fire" (I Corinthians 3:10-15).
Paul also wrote, saying, "For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall
confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way" (Romans 14:9-13).
It is not my purpose, in this article, to condemn those who do not see the full story behind Pentecost -- or the full light God has shed upon this wonderful Feast day. But for those of us who do understand, let's observe this Festival with new joy, new meaning, new zeal, renewed dedication and commitment, and new vigilance!
PENTECOST -- Its
True Meaning &
Not only do thousands observe Pentecost or Shavuot
on the wrong day, but millions don't have any true
understanding of its deep rich symbolical meaning
and spiritual significance! Here the awesome and in-
credible truth is made crystal clear and plain as day!
William F. Dankenbring
Millions of people don't understand the true meaning of the Pentecost holy day, because of one of two reasons: The Jews observe the correct day, but don't understand its real significance because they don't recognize the true Messiah -- and this day is symbolical of the Messiah and His coming in a very unique way! Thousands of others don't understand the true meaning of this day because, although they understand who is the true Messiah, they are ignorant of the true day on which to observe Pentecost, and its vital linkage with the Passover season!
But God has revealed the awesome meaning of this holy day during these "last days." Let's take a good look at the mystery of Pentecost -- the "Festival of Shavuot" or "Weeks" -- also called Yom Ha'Bikkurim, or "Day of The Firstfruits."
Going Through the Desert Wilderness
To understand Pentecost, then, let's notice it's direct relationship to Passover. We read that on the day after the "sabbath" -- the high holy day of Passover, the 15th of Nisan -- the people were to bring an "omer" or sheaf of firstfruits of the barley harvest to the priest, to be waved for them (Lev.23:11). And from that day, which would be the 16th of Nisan, they were to "count off seven weeks. They must be complete: you must count until the day after the seventh week -- fifty days; then you shall bring an offering of new grain to the LORD. You shall bring from your settlements two loaves of bread as an elevation offering; each shall be made of two-tenths of a measure of choice flour, baked after leavening, as firstfruits to the LORD" (Lev.23:15-17, Tanakh).
Leading up to Pentecost, then, was a period of 49 days -- seven full weeks -- counted from the day after Passover. Passover pictures the sacrificial lamb of God shedding His blood in atonement for the sins of each sacrificer, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29; I Cor.5:7). Putting leaven out of our homes for the seven days during the Feast of Unleavened Bread pictures putting sin out of our lives. On the seventh day of unleavened bread, Israel came through the Red Sea
in a miraculous deliverance from Egypt, a type of "sin." This pictures the "baptism" of every repentant sinner who confesses his sins and acknowledges Christ as the Messiah and Saviour (I Cor.10:1-4).
The forty-nine day journey through the wilderness pictures the Christian's life of overcoming, rooting out sin, and conquering the fleshly impulses -- the "evil impulses" or yetzer ha'ra of human nature (Jer.17:9; Rom.8:7). The number "49" of course is significant: It is 7 X 7, or perfection perfected. Thus we are to have our spiritual character "perfected" during this life of overcoming, so that we can be worthy to stand before the Son of man at His coming!
What, then, does all this lead up to? It leads up to the "fiftieth day" -- that is, Pentecost!
The Two Loaves and the Bread of Life
Pentecost occurs at the culmination of the march through the wilderness of 7 X 7 days -- a "perfect" or "complete" march. The seven weeks picture the seven stages or thresholds of "overcoming" sin and developing the character and divine nature of God -- replacing human nature with its earthly pulls with DIVINE nature (Gal.4:19; II Pet.1:4). What is to happen, then, on the "fiftieth day" -- the "Feast of Weeks"? This Feast could be described as the "FEAST of the Weeks of Overcoming"! It is the PRESENT -- the GIFT of God that He gives to His people who have obeyed His commandments, and served Him faithfully!
The Feast of Pentecost, therefore, pictures SALVATION -- and the GIFT of becoming ONE with God -- spiritual ONENESS!
Notice! This feast pictures the harvest of the "firstfruits to the LORD" (Lev.23:17). On this Festival day two loaves of beautiful bread are offered to God, as wave offerings, made of the finest flour (v.17). What do these two loaves of bread picture?
Jesus Christ said, "I am that bread of life" (John 6:48), and, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven" (John 6:51). He commands His true followers to eat of His "bread" -- which is His body, broken for us (Matt.26:26). In so doing, we become like Him -- and receive of His spiritual essence. Therefore, the apostle Paul writes, speaking of the Church of God: "The bread which we brake, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are ONE BREAD, and one body: for we are all partakers of that ONE BREAD" (I Cor.10:16-17).
In other words, Jesus Christ is pictured in the Scriptures as being a loaf of bread -- the righteous loaf that came down from heaven. But the Church also is pictured as being ONE BREAD -- that is, ONE LOAF -- also. Thus we have two loaves -- One is Christ, and the other is the Church!
Some might object, saying, "But these two loaves are leavened, and leaven is a type of sin. So how can they represent Christ and the Church?"
It is true that "leaven" in the Bible sometimes represents sin, because of the way in which leaven works. Paul says, "A little leaven leaveneth a whole lump" (Gal.5:9). In this passage he is talking about false teachings, that begin to influence and change a person's behavior for the worse.
Jesus Christ told His disciples, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees" (Matt.16:6). The disciples understood how "he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the DOCTRINE of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees" (v.12).
Leaven, in these cases, is a type of a corrupting and perverting influence -- something that changes the nature of a product for the worse! But leaven is also a type of GOD'S KINGDOM -- and a type of God's Holy Spirit -- which changes a person's nature for the better!
Jesus Christ also taught: "The kingdom of heaven is like unto LEAVEN, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened" (Matt.13:33). Like the leaven which renders mere flour into bread dough, and causes it to rise up, and become delicious and tasty, so the Spirit of God changes our human nature, and causes it to transform into God's Holy and righteous divine nature! Jesus Christ would hardly have said, "The kingdom of heaven is like SIN," would He? Obviously, in this case "leaven" does not picture "sin" at all!
Therefore, the leavened loaves offered to God on Pentecost in no way represent loaves of bread saturated with the leaven of SIN! That would be ridiculous! God would never accept an offering transformed by the influences of SIN. Rather, these loaves contain leaven, which represents the transforming quality of God's Holy Spirit!
"The Firstfruits of God"
Notice that the two loaves of leavened bread offered on Pentecost are also called "the FIRSTFRUITS to the LORD" (Lev.23:17). Who or what, then, are the "firstfruits"?
The apostle Paul points out that as true followers of Christ, we are they "which have the FIRSTFRUITS of the Spirit" (Rom.8:23). The apostle James tells us, "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of FIRSTFRUITS of his creatures" (James 1:17). Also, John in the book of Revelation, describes the Church of God -- true believers in the Messiah -- as spiritual "virgins," who have not been defiled by the "women" -- the false churches -- of this paganized
world. John says, of them, "These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were REDEEMED from among men, BEING THE FIRSTFRUITS UNTO GOD and to the Lamb" (Rev.14:1-4).
Thus the Church of God, true Christians, are the "firstfruits" -- and also are "one bread."
But in First Corinthians, the apostle Paul says further: "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become THE FIRSTFRUITS [Greek, literally, firstfruit, singular] of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: CHRIST THE FIRSTFRUITS [Greek, singular, 'FIRSTFRUIT']; afterward they that are Christ's AT HIS COMING" (I Cor.15:20-23). When are the "firstfruits" going to be presented to Christ? "AT HIS COMING!"
Do we get it then? WE ARE THE "FIRSTFRUITS," pictured by the two loaves of bread offered to God on the day of Pentecost! One loaf pictures Christ Himself! The other loaf pictures the Bride of Christ, the Church of God! Pentecost, then, pictures the great celestial WEDDING DAY -- THE WEDDING CELEBRATION -- OF THE MESSIAH AND HIS BRIDE, SPIRITUAL "ISRAEL"!
"A Wedding Coming Soon"
Abbout 20 years ago, or so, a young couple at Ambassador College -- Matthew and Sharron Kalliman -- sang a number of "folk-songs," spiritual melodies, which Matthew had written himself, and performed in church services and at the Feast of Tabernacles, accompanied by guitars, and sometimes additional musical instruments. At that time we did a record of some of Matthew's songs, based on the seven days of Creation and the plan of God. One of the beautiful songs was titled "A Wedding Coming Soon," about the future wedding of Christ and the Church of God (the true saints of God).
This wedding is described in Revelation 19. We read: Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the MARRIAGE of the Lamb is come, and his WIFE hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he said unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Rev.19:6-9).
It is, of course, interesting to note that ancient Israel also entered into a "wedding" contract with God at Mount Sinai, on the very day of Pentecost, when they came out of Egypt under Moses. God Himself, the One who became the Messiah, came down to the top of Mount Sinai, and "revealed" Himself to Israel, and spoke the Ten Commandments in their hearing (Exo.19:20; 20:1-17). This was surely a momentous event. This was a special
"revelation" of God to mankind. It occurred in the desert. We read: "And all the people SAW the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the NOISE of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking . . ." (v.18).
Notice that the people "SAW" the thunderings, and the "noise" of the trumpet. How do you "SEE" thunderings and noise? Generally speaking, we "hear" thunder with our ears; you cannot "see" it. Likewise, we "hear" noises with our ears, which can hear only a small portion of the entire spectrum of the band of "sound waves." But we do not "see" noises or other sounds. Yet the Scriptures are very explicit, here. God is telling us something special. To "see" sound implies that the Israelites received a special REVELATION from God -- they were able to do that which is not normal, according to the senses of the flesh. Their awareness was heightened, and their sensory receptacles were decloaked, and they were able to SEE sounds, thunderings, and lightnings -- they had a unique awareness of these sound waves. They experienced a sort of enlightened and mystical epiphany. This occurred on Pentecost, at Mount Sinai, when God spoke to mankind!
Pentecost and the Marriage Covenant
Israel entered into a covenant relationship with God, and agreed to be obedient to Him (Exodus 24:3, 7). This was followed by a magnificent "Feast" when they were enabled and permitted to "see God" and not be killed (vs.10-11). This was a MARRIAGE covenant! Jeremiah the prophet records the words of God: "Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you" (Jer.3:14).
Interestingly, then, Pentecost itself pictures the MARRIAGE of the Bride and the Lamb of God -- the Messiah! He was also the One who married ancient Israel, in a physical covenant, called the Old Covenant. But Israel rebelled, and He divorced her (Jer.3:8,9-11, 20). He then died for His bride, in order to redeem her to Himself, to pay the penalty of her sins.
At the second coming of the Messiah, He will MARRY His new bride, Redeemed Israel (Gal.6:16). He will inaugurate the NEW COVENANT, which is also a Marriage Covenant, only this is not a physical covenant alone with physical promises of health and wealth and prosperity; this is a spiritual covenant with better promises, of spiritual inheritance, eternal life, and salvation, and becoming a very son of God through the resurrection of the dead (see Heb.8: 7-10; Rom.8:16-18; Heb.11:39-40).
Mount Sinai and Mount Zion
The Old Covenant was made and ratified at Mount Sinai, and was a marriage covenant (Gal.4:22-25). The New Covenant will be concluded with the Church at the second coming of Christ, when He sets foot on the Mount of Olives (Zech.14:4; Acts 1:9-10), and returns to Mount Zion.
The Old Covenant was of the flesh, and compares to Rahab, and the child Ishmael, the child of the flesh (Gal.4:24-25), which generates bondage and slavery. But the New Covenant is spiritual, and compares to Isaac, the child of promise, and faith, and brings true freedom through the Messiah, of whom Isaac was a "type" -- "Jerusalem above, which is the mother of us all" (Gal.4:26-27). We in the Church are not children of the "bondwoman," but of the free (Gal.4:28-31).
The apostle Paul further compares, or contrasts, these two covenants, Mount Sinai with Mount Zion, in the book of Hebrews. He writes: "For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, not unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of the trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more . . . But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and CHURCH OF THE FIRSTBORN [that is, "firstfruits"!], which are written in heaven [our names are inscribed in the Book of Life in heaven!], and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of the NEW COVENANT, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh" (Heb.12:18-25).
The Revelation at Mount Sinai
In his book Mirrors in Time: A Psycho-Spiritual Journey through the Jewish Year, Joel Ziff writes about the holy day of Shavuot or Pentecost:
"The revelation at Mount Sinai was not only a mystical, intellectual, and inner
experience. God's Presence manifests itself in concrete and practical form, in the
Ten Commandments engraved in stone, and in the Torah with the 613 mitzvot,
action imperatives that guide and inform every aspect of life. According to Shneur
Zalman [the early 19th century leader of Chabad hasidism], at the time of revelation
on Mount Sinai, the light of God's Essence, the Ayn Sof, the Infinite, is manifest
through the Torah. In the same way, the personal revelation we experience is not
limited to a cognitive discovery that remains within us. It translates into new rules
and guidelines for ourselves in how to approach our situation more constructively.
Understanding informs action" (p.112).
Each year, as we observe the day of Pentecost, after having "counted the Omer" for forty-nine days, and achieving a pinnacle of "perfection," and arrive at the foot of "Sinai," we should prepare ourselves, as our ancestors did, for the moment of "Revelation." We should rehearse the giving of the Law, study over the Ten Commandments, and the Torah, and reflect on what this day means -- a day of MARRIAGE to God, and of COVENANT, agreeing to obey God and keep all His commandments -- as we enter into a NEW RELATIONSHIP typified by this day -- the relationship of BRIDE AND BRIDEGROOM!
Ziff portrays this truth from his own understanding of this day, as a Jew, in this way:
"The experience at Mount Sinai is described using the image of a WEDDING in
which God is the GROOM standing under the marriage canopy -- the chuppah --
with the Israelites as the BRIDE. God and Israel make AN ETERNAL COMMIT-
MENT TO ONE ANOTHER. God gives the Torah, and the Israelites pledge to adhere
to its precepts. A WEDDING REPRESENTS THE BEGINNING OF A RELATION-
SHIP. Although vows are made, the young couple must still struggle to TRANSLATE
those vows into reality, overcoming differences and difficulties. In the same way, the
commitment made at Sinai also represents a beginning of relationship. There are
many difficulties to overcome: shortly after Moses ascends Mount Sinai, the Israelites
make the golden calf, losing trust and violating their commitment" (p.113).
Notice four imperatives here -- four golden truths. First, the great occasion at Mount Sinai is compared to a WEDDING -- a marriage ceremony. The bride and groom exchange their "I do's," and the "bride" willingly agrees to "obey" her husband -- to keep His commandments. The couple "exchange vows." He agrees to protect and provide for her, and to love her and cherish her, through all times, good and bad, and to love her forever; she agrees to be faithful to Him, to obey Him, to love Him, and to endure life's trials with Him, despite distress, tests, problems, difficulties, discouragements, hard times, or whatever.
Secondly, this wedding represents a new relationship -- a new COMMITMENT on the part of both parties. This is an eternal, everlasting "commitment."
Thirdly, this wedding constitutes a TRANSFORMING experience -- it is a NEW RELATIONSHIP! Two who were formerly separate now "tie the knot" and become ONE! There is a NEW ONENESS that is instituted. Even as Adam took Eve as his wife, and "they twain" became "ONE FLESH" (Matt.19:5-6; Gen.2:21-24), even so Christ and the Church will become "ONE SPIRIT" -- that is, One, in spirit
Essence, in Spiritual Unity.
Even so, as Paul wrote, in this life we are to be TRANSFORMED until we are ready to become ONE with Christ! He wrote, "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Rom.12:2).
Paul likewise wrote to the Ephesians, "That ye put off concerning the former conduct the OLD man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be RENEWED in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the NEW man, which after God is CREATED in righteousness and true holiness" (Eph.4:22-24).
To the Colossians, Paul writes: "Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on THE NEW MAN, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him" (Col.3:9-10). As the people of God, we are being changed -- transformed -- into the very IMAGE and spiritual likeness of Jesus Christ!
Fourthly, this new relationship also bespeaks A NEW BEGINNING -- A NEW AWARENESS -- A NEW CREATION!
"The Eighth Day of Passover"
This truth is manifest in the fact that Pentecost is the fiftieth day -- the final day of a Jubilee cycle of days (compare Lev.25). The fiftieth day represents the Jubilee year, the year of Freedom and Liberty and Release! "Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of Jubilee to sound . . . And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and PROCLAIM LIBERTY throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof" (Lev.25:9-10). Pentecost, which by definition means "the fiftieth day," is the JUBILEE DAY -- the day of true freedom, guaranteed by the Laws of God, and the Covenantal Power of God!
But, being the END of one cycle, the day of Pentecost is also known as "the eighth day" of Passover -- and the conclusion of the Passover festival season. Even as "Shemini Atzeret" is the "Eighth Day" and follows the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles, so Pentecost or Shavuot is the "eighth day" of the Passover festival. The number "eight" is very significant. A week has "seven" days, and the first day of the next week is known as the "eighth day." Thus "eight" signifies a NEW BEGINNING, or the beginning of a new cycle, a new phase, a NEW CREATION. There were "eight" souls on Noah's ark that were saved, to enter a New World after the Deluge (I Pet.3:20).
The number "eight" in Hebrew sh'moneh, from the root shah'meyn, meaning "to make fat," "cover with fat," "to super-abound." As a participle, it means "one who abounds in strength." As a noun, it is "superabundant fertility," "oil,"
etc. As a numeral, then, it is the super-abundant number! As seven represents the day of completion, then eight, which follows seven, means "over and above perfect completion," or "the first of a new series." (See Number in Scripture, by E. W. Bullinger, p.196).
Thus the marriage of Christ and His Bride, the Church, constitutes a NEW BEGINNING -- a NEW relationship! And the whole earth will experience a NEW BEGINNING -- the Messianic Kingdom or Age -- which is THE KINGDOM OF GOD!
Says Joel Ziff, in Mirrors in Time:
"This beginning is also symbolized by the offering of the FIRST RIPE FRUITS that
begins at this time; 'The day of FIRST-FRUITS is when you bring a new grain offer-
ing to God as part of your Shavuot festival. It shall be a sacred holiday to you when
you may not do any mundane work' (Numbers 28:26).
"For this reason, Shavuot is also known as Yom HaBikkurim, the day of the firstfruits.
We not only harvest the agricultural produce; we also begin to nourish ourselves with
the fruit of our learning.
"This same quality of commitment is reflected in the story of Ruth, which is read
during the Shavuot service. Ruth, the ancestor of King David, is respected because
of her commitment and devotion in carrying for her mother-in-law, Naomi. Ruth,
whose husband had died, returns with Naomi to the land of Israel rather than stay
in the land of her birth, Midian.
"The images of Shavuot allow us to receive a personal revelation that transforms
our understanding, help us to clarify a vision of our future, and motivate us to make
a commitment to manifest that vision" (p.113).
On the Feast day of Shavuot, a new harvest begins -- the wheat harvest. On this day the "first ripe fruits" of the harvest are brought to the priests. On this day then the "spring" harvest, which occurs with the "firstfruits," is depicted -- that is, the harvest of true Christians and followers of God, who are "harvested" at the second coming of Christ!
The spring harvest from Passover till Pentecost was the barley harvest. But now the two loaves of bread are offered, at the beginning of the wheat harvest, symbolizing the perfected Christ and the perfected Church, being presented before God the
Father, and "married" by Him to each other.
The Wheat Harvest -- A New Season!
The two loaves of wheat bread also represent a further symbol of transcendent, integrative learning. As we grow in understanding, and spiritual knowledge, we become more useful and valuable to God. Wheat is considered the greatest, most nourishing and balanced food for humans. In this depiction, we are symbolized by the fullness of the finest wheat bread, made from the firstfruits of the wheat harvest!
Writes Joel Ziff:
"The bread offering of Shavuot signals the manifestation of the quality of 'wheat,'
integrative and intuitive learning in contrast to the barley offering of the omer,
which nourishes the 'animal' soul associated with the Sefirot.
Connection with the Archtypal Father
This quality of learning is also symbolically described as a connection with God as
Father in contrast to the image of the Divine Mother associated with the counting of
the omer. The mother's role in nourishing the child with her milk is direct and clear.
The Father's role is more difficult to comprehend, associated traditionally with the
role as economic provider. The mother offers the infant milk, and the father puts
bread on the table. . . . The child is too young to understand logically, but wheat gives
the infant a knowledge that transcends what can be understood through the logical
cognitive processes. The infant feels the connection and expresses it. The infant longs
for the father, has trouble separating from the father, and cries when the father leaves
. . . This knowledge is more powerful than the logical process. It is this aspect of
God that we experience at Shavuot.
". . . . At Mount Sinai, we make connection with God as Divine Father, receiving a
nourishment that is complex and less obvious. . .
"Shneur Zalman associates the bread offering with the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew
alphabet using the mystical process known as gematria for making connections through
numerology. The Hebrew word for wheat, chittah, adds up to twenty-two, the same as
the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Once we have the basic sounds of the
vowels associated with the time of the counting of the omer, we can combine them with
letters to produce words, sentences, and conversations, the traffic of relationship. The
letters represent the transcendent experience of Shavuot and the giving of the Torah"
(Mirrors in Time, p.115-117).
Notice! The counting of the Omer, in the desert, is one plane of relationship, which connects us with God as our Provider, who sent the manna in the wilderness. But when the Israelites reached the Mountain of Sinai, a whole new relationship commenced. They saw God then as Father. The basic building blocks they learned in the wilderness, by counting the Omer (learning how to count -- a rudimentary concept), is now replaced by a transcendent new relationship -- typified by the outpouring of God's Voice -- His Words -- the Torah, which incorporates all His law and commandments. This new relationship is compared to firstfruits of "wheat," whereas the desert wilderness experience is compared to the firstfruits of "barley." As wheat transcends barley, in richness and desirability, so our new relationship with God transcends our old relationship. As "wheat," we are on a much higher, newer level -- a higher and more exalted "plane" of existence -- a much greater REVELATION of God!
Integrative and Synergistic CHANGE
Joel Ziff compares it to the driving of a car. First a young person learns each isolated aspect of driving -- starting, steering, acceleration, braking, turning, watching the rear view mirror, backing up, etc., etc. It is a long series of movements and adjustments, which must learn to be coordinated together. But eventually, when that learning process is complete, we arrive at the time when we can put it all together. Once we practice and learn each separate skill, we finally come to the point where we can simply "drive." We put it all together, and as we become more skilled, it becomes more intuitive, and synergistic. We develop a "feel" for it, which we no longer have to be consciously aware of. It becomes like "habit." All the little individual "steps" are integrated into a larger "whole."
Says Joel Ziff:
"One's competence increases as each of the component skills is mastered. Eventually,
a breakthrough occurs: all the pieces become integrated, without focusing on each as
an individual skill. The prior learning dissolves into a new synergy, a whole greater than
the parts, a more intuitive, nonlinear integration. The step-by-step, left-hemisphere [of
the brain] learning from the time of the counting of the omer provides a foundation that
is integrated and TRANSCENDED by the intuitive synergistic learning of SHAVUOT"
Thus the Feast of Shavuot pictures a rapid and accelerated CHANGE -- a new dimension of learning -- a new level of experience -- a new plane of existence -- a new platform of reality. It represents not merely a quantitative "leap" from that of the counting of the Omer, but a qualitative jump in existential reality! Whereas the counting of the Omer represents the human being working on overcoming the animal lusts and instincts, and the evil impulses (yetzer ha'ra) within human nature, and the trials and learning processes of this present life; the day of Shavuot, Pentecost, is a day of "Revelation" -- a day of Transcendence -- a day picturing the CHANGE that will occur within our very natures at the coming of Jesus Christ to take His Bride to Himself, and to inaugurate the Kingdom of God!
Joel Ziff explains:
"Insight is meaningless if it does not translate into CHANGE in what we do and
how we respond. For example, in working with addictions, twelve-step programs
such as Alcoholics Anonymous stress the need for making a commitment to change.
There is also a recognition that commitment does not instantly translate into behavior.
For this reason, the recovering addict is enjoined to take 'one day at a time.' Some-
times, one is not able to sustain the commitment, falls back into old addictive behavior,
and must begin once more in the struggle for recovery.
"In the same way, for each of us, as we develop our understanding of new situations
and how to cope with them, we arrive at a point where we are able to make a commit-
ment to CHANGE [i.e., Shavuot]. Although this is an important step, we are ONLY
BEGINNING: much effort is needed to translate that commitment into reality" (Joel
Ziff, Mirrors in Time, p.120-121).
The Feast of Pentecost, then, is involved with CHANGE -- commitment to obey God, and commitment to keep His laws faithfully, and commitment to CHANGE our behavior. Shavuot represents the BEGINNING of a commitment; it represents the beginning of a process.
"In this same way, as each of us experiences a moment of REVELATION [such as is
depicted by the revelation at Mount Sinai], we then need to make a commitment to that
vision, so that the thought and idea can be translated into reality. We spend the rest of
the cycle of the year IN THAT PROCESS [the process of CHANGING]" (p.121).
Shavuot, which means "Weeks," or Pentecost, which means "Fiftieth Day," both represent the concept of commitment to CHANGE. This holy day of God represents a great day of CHANGE! It soars above the mundane life of dreary and difficult "overcoming," and fighting the pulls of the world and human nature, depicted by the forty-nine days (seven weeks) of counting the Omer. It lifts one above the mundane to the celestial; from the mud to the stars; from the earthly to the divine; from going one-on-one in battling one's problems, to going face to face in experiencing the Revelation of GOD!
A Great "CHANGE" That Is Coming
This picture of "change" is depicted in the New Testament. We read of the day Pentecost pictures -- the day the Bridegroom meets His Bride -- which is the time of the second coming of Christ, the "revelation" of Yeshua the Messiah. Paul wrote, "And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed [i.e., His "revelation" as at Pentecost!] from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (II Thess.1:7-8).
Peter speaks of Christ's coming as a great "Revelation," also -- "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (I Pet.1:13).
At this spectacular revelation, we -- God's true people, who obey Him and keep His commandments -- will be CHANGED! Paul wrote, "Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead [in Christ] shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be CHANGED. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (I Cor.15:51-53).
The end of the "weeks" we come to Shavuot, which depicts this incredible CHANGE which will occur at the second coming of Christ, when the "firstfruits" are CHANGED and GLORIFIED and given eternal life! Paul says, "There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in
glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. . . As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" (I Cor.15:41-49).
Paul also wrote of this incredible day and what it pictures: "For our conversation [Greek, "citizenship"] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall CHANGE our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself" (Phil.3:20-21). John puts it this way: "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God . . . and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when he is revealed, WE SHALL BE LIKE HIM, for we shall see Him as He is" (I John 3:1-2).
The patriarch Job, in the Old Testament, wrote: "If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my CHANGE come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to [finish] the work of thine hands" (Job 14:14-15).
A New Understanding of Pentecost
When we consider the deep significance and meaning of the day of Pentecost, the day of "firstfruits," and how it fits into God's overall plan, it should fill us with exuberance and anticipation -- exhilaration and excitement!
Think about it! This day does not merely describe the coming of God's Holy Spirit upon the Church of God, in 30 A.D. It does not merely represent the beginning of the Church "age" when the Holy Spirit came upon the Church for the first time (see Acts 2). Rather, it is the FOCAL POINT of the entire spring festival season, the CULMINATION of events that transpire from Passover until Pentecost!
Pentecost, as the "little Jubilee" -- being the "fiftieth day" -- is a type of the day of the coming of Messiah, on the "Great Jubilee," at the last trumpet, when the "great trumpet shall be blown" (Isaiah 27:13). It typifies the harvesting of the "first-fruits" unto God, that is, the Church of God down through the ages.
As the time of the giving of the Law, and the old covenant, a marriage covenant between God and Israel, Pentecost also pictures the "marriage" of Christ to the Church, which will occur at His second coming. And it depicts the day when the Church will be glorified, and be given incorruptible bodies, and immortality, and eternal life, in the God Family -- a fitting glorious Bride for a loving and glorious Groom! It depicts the
day of our "epiphany" -- our complete CHANGE from mortal to immortal, from corruptible flesh to incorruptible spirit, from human to DIVINE!
Pentecost is also the day in which God finally "REVEALED" Himself to Israel, amidst thunder and lightning and many signs and wonders, after the Passover deliverance, and the journey through the wilderness. Even so, it also depicts that coming day when CHRIST will once again be "revealed from heaven," in awesome power and glory.
How many of us understand this dramatic scenario? How many understand that Pentecost is not just a "forgotten feast," that has no special meaning or importance? It is one of the three pilgrimage festivals. And as the conclusion of the Passover season, it has very special meaning to those of us who are true Christians, depicting the day of our salvation, the return of Christ as the Bridegroom, and the marriage of the Lamb to His Bride! Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!