What about Pentecost?
What is it?
What happened in Acts 2?
Should Christians keep it?
What does Pentecost help picture according to the Old and New Testaments?
How do we count it?
This article will deal with those topics.
Let's start out from the New Testament Book of Acts, where we read the following:
15 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), (Acts 1:15, NKJV, some quotes in this article are from the old KJV)
So, after a 3 1/2 year miracle-filled ministry led by Jesus Himself, only 120 were apparently faithful. And notice something that the faithful did"
1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4)
So, we see that Jesus' disciples were are together and kept the Day of Pentecost. The word Pentecost basically means 50th as it comes based on a counting of 50 days.
Anyway, now notice the crowd's response to what God's Spirit did:
5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7 Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, "Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs — we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God." 12 So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "Whatever could this mean?"
13 Others mocking said, "They are full of new wine." (Acts 2:5-13)
Notice when people saw the work of God that many who claimed to believe in the biblical God, mocked.
Then the Apostle Peter arose:
14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. 15 For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. (Acts 2:14-15)
So, Peter defended the disciples against criticism. Peter then said:
16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,Your young men shall see visions,Your old men shall dream dreams. 18 And on My menservants and on My maidservantsI will pour out My Spirit in those days;And they shall prophesy.
Many mock the fact that God's word says that dreams and prophets would be here in the last days.
An odd thing about that is that is the view of many who were in the old Worldwide Church of God, even though it taught it.
For example, the late Pastor General of the old Worldwide Church of God (WCG), Herbert W. Armstrong, taught it in a 1981 sermon (scripture is from the KJV):
All right, now there’s another prophecy for the people …
Joel 2:28-29 And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: (29) And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
So there is a time coming when God will start pouring out His spirit on human beings. … Day of Pentecost, 3000 were baptized. Peter preached a sermon. They were pricked in their hearts. God began to draw them. God was now… Remember He said, “I will pour out of my spirit on all flesh.” All right, there’s a duality of that. (Armstrong HW. Building The Temple. Sermon, February 14, 1981)
Herbert W. Armstrong was correct about the time coming when God would pour out His Spirit as well as the duality. There was a duality to what Peter preached in Acts 2–and that duality is for our current time!
Therefore, dreams and prophesy were expected for our day!
Many seem to discount the fact that there were dreams (Matthew 1:20, 2:13-22; 27:9; Acts 16:9) AND prophets (e.g. Acts 15:32, 21:10; 1 Corinthians 13:9) in the New Testament (see also How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God).
This is a prophecy, according to the Bible, for the last days.
We are in the last days (see also Does God Have a 6,000 Year Plan? What Year Does the 6,000 Years End?).
Therefore, dreams and prophesy were expected for our day!
Has this happened in the 21st century?
While Herbert W. Armstrong was alive, the Personal Correspondence Department in the old WCG sent out a letter on dreams and stated the Bible showed that future dreams from God to His people were expected.
It then had a date change added to it and here is a quote from that one:
Thank you for your question concerning visions or dreams. The Bible reveals that in times past servants of God were given visions and dreams for specific reasons and/or to convey special messages. …God has used this means of communication in the past and will do so again (Acts 2:17; Joel 2:28) (L052 Worldwide Church of God, 1989)
As the WCG did not publicly acknowledge any such dreams after that letter was sent, the interpretation must be that God would later use dreams (it should be mentioned that the original date of L052 was prior to 1986–hence it was not a change by the Tkach Administration).
In his booklet, The Tongues Question (1970), Herbert Armstrong wrote:
While correcting the Corinthian church, Paul said, “I would that ye ALL spake with tongues” (I Cor. 14:5), and “forbid not to speak with tongues,” in the church (verse 39). We should banish all prejudice against the true manifestation of tongues which is the ability to speak in real languages.
But we should get the tongues into the proper SCRIPTURAL place of importance.
Yet, many also have prejudice against God’s use of dreams.
Despite what the Acts 2:17-18 supports, most Church of God groups (and scattered ‘independents’) do not seemingly accept that there are any prophets today, nor do they seem to accept that God actually sometimes speaks in dreams in the 21st century.
The Bible records that God often has used dreams to give messages, mainly to men (Genesis 20:3-7, 28:10-17, 31:10-13, 31:24, 37:5-10, 40:5-18, 41:1-32; Numbers 12:6; Judges 7:13-15; 1 Kings 3:5-15; Daniel 2:3-45, 4:4-27, 7:1-28; Matthew 1:20-25, 2:12, 2:13, 2:19, 2:22; Acts 16:9), and possibly at least one or more times to a woman (cf. Numbers 12:6; Judges 4:4-16; see also Matthew 27:19).
Yes, most dreams are not from God (Deuteronomy 18:22), but consider that confirmed dreams related to the Christian church would be in a different (and biblically prophesied) category (Matthew 10:41; Acts 2:17-18).
Acts 2:17-18 prophesied dreams and prophets and God has restored both in this 21st century!
Most end-time Christians seemingly despise prophecies, despite the warning not to:
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil. (Thessalonians 5:19-22)
Most Christians are not properly testing all things and holding fast what is good. Although they think they do, however, they actually seem to discount parts of the Bible, while telling themselves that they really believe all of it–that was the expected condition of the Laodiceans according to Jesus (Revelation 3:14-18). Failure to proper test all things and not accept biblical prophecies, like Acts 2:17-18, is evil. Every form of evil includes laxness and disregard of God’s word on matters including God’s use of dreams and prophets.
Many in various COGs appear indignant/dismissive of the very idea that God would use dreams or prophets. Many do not understand what the Bible or what certain leaders have taught about prophets (for some details, see Church of God Leaders on Prophets). Part of the reason for this is pride, but also that the self-proclaimed ‘prophets’ outside of the Continuing Church of God have tended to have proven to be false (see also Why Be Concerned About False and Heretical Leaders?).
But that does not mean God doesn’t ever use dreams or have any in the office of prophet or ever pour out a ‘double-portion’ of His Spirit (cf. 2 Kings 2:9-15) as happened when an ordained minister so prayed and anointed me (Bob Thiel) on December 15, 2011.
In the Old Testament, God gave a sign people could see that showed the mantle of leadership passed to Elisha (2 Kings 2:14-15). And for the last days, the Philadelphian Christians are those who kept God’s word (“kept My word” Revelation 3:7-8), and hence are willing to believe the confirmation signs that were at least partially prophesied in the New Testament in Acts 2:17-18. This was not said of the non-Philadelphians and the mantle does not pass to any of them (for more on the mantle, check out the article: Herbert W. Armstrong, the Philadelphia Church, & the Mantle).
The Apostle Peter (Acts 2:17-18) and the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-29) taught that there would be some with prophetic dreams in the end times.
Since a dream from a woman (Loma Armstrong) preceded the start of the Philadelphian era of the Church of God (for details, see Dreams, the Bible, the Radio Church of God, and the Continuing Church of God), does it not make sense that God would give a dream to another woman (in this case Fesilafai Fiso Leaana) prior to the formation of what became the most faithful Philadelphian continuation (cf. Hebrews 13:1, literal), which is the Continuing Church of God?
Yet, many non-Philadelphians have concluded that there are not, cannot be, and/or that no stock should be placed on dreams.
But since Peter said that was a last days prophecy, then THE WORD OF GOD IS CLEAR THAT SOME OF GOD’S MOST FAITHFUL WOULD HAVE TO HAVE DIVINELY-INSPIRED DREAMS and/or prophetic abilities at this time. WILL YOU NOT BELIEVE THAT GOD WOULD BE DOING WHAT HIS WORD SAID HE WOULD BE DOING IN THE LAST DAYS?
At least seven people associated with the Continuing Church of God have had confirmed prophetic dreams (for details, see Dreams, the Bible, the Radio Church of God, and the Continuing Church of God). Is this happening anywhere else in the COGs?
The Bible shows that God most often works with prophets through a dream:
5 Then the Lord came down in the pillar of cloud and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam. And they both went forward. 6 Then He said,
“Hear now My words:
If there is a prophet among you,
I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision;
I speak to him in a dream. (Numbers 12:5-6)
Notice that the above says that God’s plan is that He will speak to His prophets in a dream.
As the Apostle Peter was inspired to speak in Acts 2:17-18, dreams and prophets were prophesied in the New Testament for the last days!
For more on Acts 2:17-18, check out the article: Does the CCOG have the confirmed signs of Acts 2:17-18?
Getting back to Peter on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, he continued with:
19 I will show wonders in heaven aboveAnd signs in the earth beneath:Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. 21 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.' (Acts 2:19-21)
Peter put in the time period that there would be dreams and prophecies just before the coming Day of the Lord--that is for our time now.
Now, going back to his time, Peter said:
22 "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know — 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. 25 For David says concerning Him:
'I foresaw the Lord always before my face,For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad;Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. 27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades,Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the ways of life;You will make me full of joy in Your presence.'
29 "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.
34 "For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself:
'The Lord said to my Lord,'Sit at My right hand, 35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."'
36 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." (Acts 2:22-36)
So, then what happened?
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."
40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation." (Acts 2:37-40)
We seem to be in an even more perverse generation now than when Peter spoke. And we are still to reach people now as God is calling people in this age. See also the free online booklet: Is God Calling You?
It could be said that the New Testament church officially began on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2--which seems to probably have been 31 A.D. (though 33 A.D. may be the case).
Back to Acts 2 we see that major growth occurred back then:
41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:41-42)
Are we still supposed to be continuing "steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine" now?
As the Apostle Jude wrote:
3 ... contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3)
That is something we in the Continuing Church of God are also doing.
Plus, we have restored and provided significant documentation which helps prove that the doctrines and practices we have continued were part of that original faith.
The following helps show that:
Beliefs of the Original Catholic Church: Could a remnant group have continuing apostolic succession? Did the original “catholic church” have doctrines held by the Continuing Church of God? Did Church of God leaders uses the term “catholic church” to ever describe the church they were part of? Here are links to related sermons: Original Catholic Church of God?, Original Catholic Doctrine: Creed, Liturgy, Baptism, Passover, What Type of Catholic was Polycarp of Smyrna?, Tradition, Holy Days, Salvation, Dress, & Celibacy, Early Heresies and Heretics, Doctrines: 3 Days, Abortion, Ecumenism, Meats, Tithes, Crosses, Destiny, and more, Saturday or Sunday?, The Godhead, Apostolic Laying on of Hands Succession, Church in the Wilderness Apostolic Succession List, Holy Mother Church and Heresies, and Lying Wonders and Original Beliefs. Here is a link to that book in the Spanish language: Creencias de la iglesia Católica original.
Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God Differs from Protestantism The CCOG is NOT Protestant. This free online book explains how the real Church of God differs from mainstream/traditional Protestants. Several sermons related to the free book are also available: Protestant, Baptist, and CCOG History; The First Protestant, God’s Command, Grace, & Character; The New Testament, Martin Luther, and the Canon; Eucharist, Passover, and Easter; Views of Jews, Lost Tribes, Warfare, & Baptism; Scripture vs. Tradition, Sabbath vs. Sunday; Church Services, Sunday, Heaven, and God’s Plan; Seventh Day Baptists/Adventists/Messianics: Protestant or COG?; Millennial Kingdom of God and God’s Plan of Salvation; Crosses, Trees, Tithes, and Unclean Meats; The Godhead and the Trinity; Fleeing or Rapture?; and Ecumenism, Rome, and CCOG Differences.
Meaning of God's Sabbaths (much of the following, as there are changes and edits I made, was from an article titled What You Need to Know About the New Testament Pentecost from the old Good News magazine in June 1974 by Raymond McNair and Garner Ted Armstrong).
Isn't it time we went directly to the Word of God to see what it says about the important Feast of Pentecost? Should it still be observed by Christians? What is the real meaning of this day? And what does it actually picture in the plan of God?
The truth is that much of the world's blindness, ignorance, superstition and misunderstanding is the direct result of its rejection of God's annual festivals and His Sabbaths — including Pentecost!
God gave His Sabbaths to be a "sign" between Him and His people: "Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you" (Exodus 31:13).
Most professing Christians utterly fail to understand that it was both the weekly and the annual Sabbaths which were to be a "sign" between God and His people.
Remember, in Old Testament times the Gentiles were mainly totally cut off from God. The Eternal had chosen Israel to be His people — to understand His purpose which He is working out here below on planet Earth: "Now therefore, if ye [Israel] will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation" (Ex. 19:5, 6).
Had the nation of Israel obeyed God, they would have been used by Him to bring the knowledge of the true Creator to the far-flung ends of the earth (Deut. 6:6-8) — till the whole world would have been filled with the glorious understanding of the great Creator-Ruler God.
Furthermore, God gave Israel His "sabbaths" to be that identifying "sign" between Him and His people. God's Sabbaths (both weekly and annual) would have identified the true God and would have kept His people in the knowledge of God's ways. Just as the weekly Sabbath was designed to keep man in remembrance of God as Creator (see Ex. 20:8, 11), so the annual Sabbaths were designed to unfold before mankind the great master plan which the Creator devised for the purpose of working out His will here on earth.
The Feast of Firstfruits
All of God's Sabbaths (weekly and annual) are given in the 23rd chapter of Leviticus. The third annual Sabbath listed is the Feast of Firstfruits (Feast of Weeks or Pentecost). It was the first harvest feast (see Lev. 23:9-22).
The second annual harvest feast was called the "feast of tabernacles" (Lev. 23:33-44), or the "feast of ingathering" (Ex. 23:16).
These two harvest festivals, the Feast of Firstfruits and the Feast of Ingathering, were both based on the annual harvests in Palestine.
The Feast of Firstfruits occurred at the end of a 50-day harvest period which commenced on the wave-sheaf Sunday during the Days of Unleavened Bread.
This fiftieth day ended the grain harvest in Palestine. It came at the close of the spring harvest of the "firstfruits." But the Feast of Ingathering occurred later — at the end of the great late summer and early autumn harvest.
What do these two feasts picture in the plan of God? We shall see the answer to this later, but let us first notice how we are commanded to count Pentecost.
The Eternal commanded Moses: "When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath [Hebrew, mi-mohorat ha shabbat] the priest shall wave it" (Lev. 23:10, 11).
The high priest waved this firstfruits of grain (probably barley) on the morrow after the weekly Sabbath. This wave sheaf was always waved on what we call a Sunday during the Days of Unleavened Bread.
Notice what happened next: "And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath [mimohorat ha shabbat], from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath [mi-mohorat ha shabbat] shall ye number fifty days..." (verses 15, 16).
The New American Bible translates this more accurately: "Beginning with the day after the sabbath, the day on which you bring the wave-offering sheaf, you shall count seven full weeks, and then on the day after the seventh week, the fiftieth day, you shall present the new cereal offering to the Lord" (verses 15, 16).
Then the priest was to take "two wave loaves." "They shall be bake with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the Lord" (verses 17).
What did the high priest do with them? He waved the various offerings, including — "the bread of the firstfruits," as a wave offering. "And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day [Pentecost], that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations" (verses 20, 21).
This commanded holy convocation was held on what in New Testament times was called the Day of Pentecost. And remember that this fifty-day harvest of firstfruits began on the day of the waving of the wave-sheaf firstfruits and ended with the waving of the two (leavened) loaves of firstfruits. Can you now see why Pentecost was called the "day of the firstfruits "? "Also in the day of the firstfruits... after your [seven] weeks be out, ye shall have an holy convocation..." (Num. 28:26).
The second annual harvest festival was called the "feast of ingathering" in the KJV (Exodus 23:16).
The use of the term “firstfruits” suggests a second harvest. And actually, this too is pointed out in the Old Testament:
16 …the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field; 17 and the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field (Exodus 23:16-17).
22 And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year’s end (Exodus 34:22).
26 Also on the day of the firstfruits, when you bring a new grain offering to the LORD at your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation (Numbers 28:26).
While some Protestant commentators refer to the wave sheaf offering as the feast of firstfruits (e.g. Radmacher E.D. ed. The Nelson Study Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1997, p. 213), this is a misnomer. While “a sheaf of firstfruits” was offered then (Leviticus 23:10-11), as shown above, the Bible refers to the Feast of Weeks as the time of firstfruits (not simply one sheaf).
These were the two great annual harvests in Palestine. The first annual harvest began with the offering up of the wave sheaf (the first of the firstfruits) during Unleavened Bread, and ended with the offering up of the two loaves made from the firstfruits grain — on the "day of the firstfruits" (Pentecost).
The second annual harvest festival, called the "feast of ingathering," occurred in the late summer or early autumn — near the end of the harvest year — at the time of the great gathering in of the summer fruits.
Both of these annual harvests contain great symbolic meaning. Christ spoke of Himself as being a "sower," and the people who were ready to receive that word and act upon it were likened to a "harvest." Jesus said:
37 ... "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." (Matthew 9:37-38, NKJV)
Who is the "Lord of the harvest"? None other than Jesus Christ.
The Master Plan of Salvation
Few realize that God has a great master plan of salvation. And still fewer realize just what that plan is.
The majority of professing Christians assume that God is now trying to save the whole world. He is, but not the way most people seem to think.
God is not now desperately trying to save all humankind in this age. He is not losing a fierce contest with a sinister devil, who is constantly striving to deceive and destroy humanity.
If there is a great contest is on between God and Satan, then who do you think is winning that struggle?
God is now leaving humans to their own devices, under the sway of the devil — so that people can learn that Satan's way of deceit, sin and greed will only produce a bumper crop of woe, misery and death.
One reason so many think God is now trying to save the world is that they have lost sight of God's annual feasts; they don't understand what these festivals picture in God's master plan of salvation. It is only by keeping God's commanded festivals, which were intimately connected with the two annual harvests in Palestine, that we can understand this plan of God.
Also, before we can understand that plan we need to get a few facts straight.
Salvation Not Offered to All in Old Testament
First, God did not generally offer salvation either to Israel or to the Gentiles during the Old Testament period. True, God prophesied that the time would come when salvation would be offered. But you will search the entire Old Testament in vain to find one promise of eternal life given either to Israel or to the Gentiles. God's promises to Israel were primarily material, physical — rain in due season, plenty of grain and wine, physical health, material wealth — and, in addition, peace and happiness.
It is true, however, that God did grant salvation to a very few during the Old Testament dispensation — to such men as Abel, Enoch, Noah, the patriarchs, Moses and the prophets. But salvation was not offered to the masses. It was, however, prophesied to come later.
Who first brought immortality to light? "... Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (II Tim. 1:10).
Second, Jesus Christ did not try to save the vast multitudes while upon this earth — shocking as that may sound. He cast out demons, healed the sick, preached the gospel and went about "doing good." Christ plainly said that He spoke many of the parables in order to hide the true meaning from the multitudes — whom He was not calling at that time (Matt. 13:10-15).
Furthermore, Christ showed that He did not come to send "peace" on the earth at His first coming (Matt. 10:34). The Prince of Peace will bring peace to all mankind at His second coming in the not-too-distant future.
The eleventh chapter of Romans clearly shows that God is not now trying to save "all Israel" "God hath given them [Israel) the spirit of slumber... unto this day" (Rom. 11:8).
The Apostle Paul said "that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be [future) saved... " (verses 25, 26).
In the Continuing Church of God we have reached many Gentiles and have been successful in assisting in the fulfillment of Romans 11:25--see also What About Romans 11:25 and the Full Number of the Gentiles?
During Jesus Christ's three-and-one-half-year ministry on this earth countless thousands heard Him speak, but very few really believed His message.
As mentioned before, at the time of Christ's ascension into heaven, there were only "about one hundred and twenty" disciples (Acts 1:15).
Why were there so few faithful believers at that time — after Christ's entire ministry of three-and-a-half years?
The answer is revealed only in the annual feasts — and in the Feast of Pentecost in particular.
God had ordained that the very first real "harvest of human souls" would occur after He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within the believers. And remember that while Jesus walked on this earth as a mortal human being "the Holy Ghost [Spirit) was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:39).
God had decreed, according to His great master plan of salvation, that the first real harvest of humans would begin on the Day of Pentecost, exactly fifty days after Jesus' ascension to heaven after His resurrection. In ancient Israel, the Israelites could not "touch" or use any grain until the wave-sheaf firstfruits were offered up to God (Lev. 23:9-14).
In fulfillment of this Old Testament type, no human could "touch" Christ until after His ascension and acceptance by the Father as the "firstfruits" of all humanity. Christ told Mary: "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father" (John 20:17). This important event occurred on the wavesheaf Sunday during the Days of Unleavened Bread. Before a single human could be saved (or reaped), Christ, as the first human wave sheaf, had to ascend to heaven in order to be accepted as the "firstfruits" of humanity by the Father.
As mentioned in Acts 2, Christ's disciples kept the Feast of Pentecost when they were supposed to have.
Christ had previously commanded the disciples:
49 Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high. (Luke 24:49, NKJV).
They were to "wait for the promise of the Father," which was that Jesus would send the Spirit of God ("the Comforter") to guide them into all truth (John 16:7, 13).
We Are the Firstfruits
What does the Feast of Firstfruits (Pentecost) picture in the plan of God?
20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).
Christ is the fulfillment of the wave sheaf offering in Leviticus 23:10-11. He is the sheaf of firstfruits. He also fulfilled that role when He ascended into heaven on the Sunday (the wave sheaf offering was on a Sunday) after He was resurrected (John 20:1,17). But neither He nor His true followers observed what is now called Easter. But Christians will follow Him in the first resurrection.
Also, James notes that Jesus brought us forth to also be a type of firstfruit:
18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures (James 1:18).
So while Jesus was the original firstfruit to represent the wave sheaf offering, true Christians are a kind of firstfruits, represented by the Day of Pentecost. “Firstfruits” mean that only a few will be part of the harvest in this age (cf. Luke 12:32; Romans 9:27; 11:5)–but they also imply that there will be a greater harvest–a time where all who never had an opportunity for salvation will later have a true and real opportunity.
Jesus was not only the first of the firstfruits, He was also the firstborn among many brethren:
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:29).
5 Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead (Revelation 1:5).
Since Jesus is the firstborn, this certainly implies that there will become others who are to be like Him. Thus, becoming like Jesus Christ is also part of the message of Pentecost. Of course the idea of becoming like Christ is taught throughout the Bible and is not limited to Pentecost. Notice what John wrote:
2 …we shall be like Him (1 John 3:2).
Because it is a holy convocation, it is observed similar to a weekly Sabbath, but with offerings (Deuteronomy 16:16). In the Old Testament, the Feast of Weeks, involving firstfruits, was kept 50 days after the Sabbath after Passover.
Pentecost portrays this present New Testament Church age in which God is only calling out the "firstfruits" — a comparatively few in number. The vast majority of humans are still "blinded" — still deceived by Satan into following his way of deceit, hypocrisy, sin and death.
And so it was that on the Day of Pentecost (A.D. 31) the "firstfruits of the Spirit" came to dwell within the believers, transforming their lives from within so they could become the divinely begotten sons of God.
The period of time from Pentecost in A.D. 31 until the second coming of Jesus will constitute the "harvest of the firstfruits" unto God.
This is clearly taught throughout the entire New Testament. The Apostle Paul revealed that Christians have received "the firstfruits of the Spirit" (Rom. 8:23).
When Christ returns to this earth, the living and revived dead are to be caught up to meet Jesus in the air (I Thess. 4:13-18; I Cor. 15:51-54). When will this occur? At the seventh or "last trump":
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:50-54, NKJV)
The "we" are the Christians firstfruits of this age! This same momentous event is described in Revelation 11:15-18.
When the "seventh angel" sounds, God will give "reward [eternal life) unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great..." (verse 18).
These saints, given immortality at the second coming of Jesus Christ, are the very first to receive glorification as sons of God. They will comprise the "firstfruits" — the very first to be glorified with eternal life in God's everlasting Kingdom.
Among those who will comprise the firstfruits are the 144,000 mentioned in the book of Revelation: "These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb" (Rev. 14:4).
But who was to be the "first" of the "firstfruits" of all humans — the first to be raised from the dead to receive immortality?
22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. (1 Corinthians 15:22-24, NKJV)
Christ is called the "firstfruits" because He was the very first human to be "reaped" — to be changed from mortal to immortal, from human to divine.
We have seen, that the 144,000 are also referred to as "the firstfruits unto God." During this Church age Christians receive freely of the "first fruits of the Spirit" (Rom. 8:23).
Notice James' confirmation of this important truth: "Of his [the Father's) own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures" (James 1:18).
All converted believers during this New Testament Church age comprise the "firstfruits unto God." Jesus Christ is called "the firstfruits of them that slept" (I Cor. 15:20). He is also called "the firstborn from the dead" (Col. 1:18), "the firstborn of every creature" (verse 15), and "the firstborn among MANY BRETHREN" (Rom. 8:29). This shows that others are to be born later. God's Church is called the "church of the firstborn" (Heb. 12:23).
If today's churches properly observed Pentecost and the other annual holy days (just as did Christ and the apostles), they would understand God's plan of salvation. They would realize that God is not now trying to save the world. He is merely calling out the "firstfruits" so they can be used by Him to rule this earth during the 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ.
The Only Day of Salvation
Some believe, erroneously, that this is the only day when salvation will be offered. "Probation" will soon be over, and all who have not accepted Christ, according to this teaching, will be forever lost. What colossal error!
"Behold, now is the day of salvation" (II Cor. 6:2). This verse is quoted from Isaiah 49:8, where it is rendered as "a day of salvation."
Now is certainly not THE only day of salvation! The Greek word for the, by the way, is NOT in the New Testament, but was inserted by many translators--it was not put there from God.
Now is a day of salvation for the "firstfruits" — those who are called now to be the very first to receive salvation and to be changed from mortal to immortal at the second coming of Jesus.
If those who profess to follow Christ really followed His example — if they kept the Feast of Firstfruits (Pentecost) — they would realize that now is the time when only the "firstfruits" are being called out of the world. God now gives the "firstfruits" of His Holy Spirit only to those who are to be the first actually to be born into His family — born of the Spirit, with Godlike powers and prerogatives.
The second great harvest feast, the Feast of Ingathering (or Feast of Tabernacles), which occurs in the late summer and early autumn, pictures the time during the millennium 1000-year reign of Christ on earth) and a short period afterward. It is then that the whole world will receive their opportunity to learn of God — to repent of their sins and grow in grace and knowledge. And after a sufficient period of time, they, like the "firstfruits" of this New Testament Church age, will finally be clothed with immortality and eternal glory.
That is God's true plan of redemption, as taught from Genesis to Revelation! And how contrary to the popular teaching! But it is the plan, nevertheless, pictured in God's annual holy days. And had the churches continued to keep these holy days, they would never have lost sight of this plan, and come under the deception of false religionists!
Follow Christ's Example
Unfortunately, many have looked on aspects of the Feast of Pentecost as "Jewish," and have therefore assumed they should not observe this important festival.
But Pentecost is not "Jewish." It is God's festival. God calls these commanded festivals "feasts of the Lord"; and He also says, "even these are my feasts" (Lev. 23:2).
Christ and the New Testament disciples and apostles understood that Pentecost was one of God's commanded feasts; and they kept it. Had they not kept it, they would have missed out — would not have received the "firstfruits" of the Holy Spirit on the "day of the firstfruits" — just fifty days after Christ's ascension to His Father after His resurrection.
Think about that for a moment. We are commanded to follow Christ's "example" (John 13:15) — to "follow his steps" (I Pet. 2:21). Is it not time for all true Christians to get back to "the faith which was once delivered unto the saints"? (Jude 3.) It is high time that Christians really began following Christ. He and His disciples kept Pentecost — and so should we.
Those who keep Pentecost understand that God is not now trying to save the world. The Feast of Firstfruits reveals that God is now calling out only a few (the "firstfruits") in order that they can partake of the "better resurrection" (Heb. 11:35) and live and reign with Christ during the soon-coming millennium.
For a complete exposition of the other holy days of God, be sure to request our free booklet Should You Keep God's Holy Days or Demonic Holidays? It explains in detail the meaning and importance of God's holy days in His master plan of salvation.
Some have wondered if Christ and the Apostles really kept Pentecost?
IT MAY come as a surprise to many to learn that it was Jesus Christ's "custom" to observe the Day of Pentecost.
Notice this surprising truth in Luke 4:16: Jesus "came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read." The Greek words translated "sabbath day" read literally "day of weeks." This is a different expression than is used when an ordinary Sabbath is meant.
What is the "day of weeks"? Deuteronomy 16:9 and 10 gives us the answer. It is the "feast of weeks," otherwise known as the "day of firstfruits" (Num. 28:26) and Pentecost day (the fiftieth day — see Lev. 23:16).
After everything that was abolished on the cross had been done away, the true New Testament Church of God was assembled in a holy convocation on the first Pentecost after Christ's death and resurrection. We read in Acts 2: "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place" (verse 1).
Pentecost pictures the first part of God's spiritual harvest — the calling out of the Church — the called-out ones — which for the New Testament dispensation began on this Pentecost in A.D. 31. On that day the Holy Spirit came to dwell within flesh, as prophesied by Joel.
Years later we find the New Testament Church continuing to observe this day. In Acts 20:16 we read: "For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost." And in I Corinthians 16:8: "But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost." Paul was following the example of Jesus Christ Himself. But this is not all. Two more Bible references show that Christ's custom was also Paul's custom. We read in Acts 13:14 that Paul and his companions "went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down." And in Acts 16:13, "And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made: and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither." In both these cases the original Greek expression is the same as in Luke 4:16, which is discussed above. Both refer to the Day of Pentecost, an annual Sabbath.
It was the unvarying practice of the New Testament Church to keep the Day of Pentecost.
For more proof that the New Testament Church kept the other holy days of God, read our free booklet Should You Keep God's Holy Days or Demonic Holidays?
The true Pentecost day
WHAT is the true day for Pentecost? Even in the days of Christ and the apostles there was disagreement among the Jews as to which was the correct day. The Pharisees believed Pentecost should be reckoned from the first annual Sabbath, to the 6th of Sivan. The Essenes believed Pentecost should be kept on the 15th of Sivan. But both of these dates were incorrect.
The Sadducees "counted" Pentecost correctly — counting inclusively from the wave-sheaf Sunday during the Passover season.
The Bible reveals that all of God's commanded annual holy days, with the exception of Pentecost, are on fixed days of the sacred calendar.
These annual holy days (except Pentecost) were divinely set to fall on fixed days of the month. And just as God has preserved the "oracles of God" (Word of God through the Jews (Rom. 3:2). He has also preserved the sacred or Hebrew calendar through them. Pentecost (also called the "feast of first fruits") is the only holy day which has to be counted, figured or calculated each year.
But how was it to be counted?
Notice God's instructions in Leviticus:
16 Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath [Hebrew, mi-mohorat ha shabbat]; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD. 17 You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the LORD (Leviticus 23:16-17).
The Hebrew prepositional phrase mi-mohorat is used only twenty-eight times in the Old Testament. In the eleventh verse of, this twenty-third chapter of Leviticus, it is translated as "on the morrow." And it is rendered "on the morrow" in twenty-five other places. Only in verse 15 is it rendered "from the morrow" and in verse 16 "unto the morrow."
When you count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath, you find that Pentecost is always to come on a Sunday. Pentecost runs from sunset Saturday until sunset Sunday. Irenaeus, who claimed to have met Polycarp of Smyrna wrote that the apostles kept Pentecost on a Sunday (Fragments of Irenaeus, 7).
It should be noted that the Greco-Roman churches also recognize that Pentecost, sometimes referred to as the feast of weeks (Leviticus 23:15-16) or the day of firstfruits (Number 28:26) in the Old Testament, had Christian significance. And they do not restrict its observance to one city--like Jerusalem--and they acknowledge that Pentecost has been kept through the entire church age.
Pentecost refers to the time of counting fifty as being associated with firstfruits as Leviticus 23 shows.
We are plainly commanded to "count" the fifty days to Pentecost "from the morrow after the sabbath." But which "sabbath" is meant?
All agree that it is a "sabbath" during the Passover season. But there are usually three Sabbaths during this period. Example: when the first day of Unleavened Bread (an annual Sabbath) falls on a Thursday (as in A.D. 31, see calendar below),
the last day (also an annual Sabbath) is Wednesday. But the weekly Sabbath comes between these two annual Sabbaths. Thus, there are normally three Sabbaths during the seven-day period of Unleavened Bread.
God commanded that Pentecost be counted from the day following a particular "sabbath" — but which Sabbath?
It is clear that God meant for us to count Pentecost beginning with the wave-sheaf Sunday during Unleavened Bread. This wave-sheaf Sunday must always follow the weekly Sabbath.
But how can we know that a weekly Sabbath is meant rather than one of the annual Sabbaths? If God had intended us to count the fifty days to Pentecost beginning with one of the annual Sabbaths — then there is really no way to know (from the Bible) which of the annual Sabbaths was intended.
Both biblical and secular history show that during the days of Christ and the apostles Pentecost was officially observed (up until about A.D. 65) according to the Sadducees' way of reckoning this day. During that time of the early New Testament Church, the Sadducees and the priests took the weekly Sabbath of the Passover season as the bench mark from which to reckon the fifty days to Pentecost. It was not until a very few years before the fall of Jerusalem that the Pharisees finally got control of the Temple and changed over to reckoning Pentecost from the morrow after the first annual Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread.
It is clear that Christ and His apostles did not observe Pentecost annually on a set or fixed day of the third month, the 6th of Sivan. But following the priestly way of reckoning, they kept Pentecost the fiftieth day of the spring harvest, reckoning the first day as the day on which the wave sheaf was offered.
How, then, are we to count Pentecost?
We are commanded to begin counting the "seven weeks" or "seven sabbaths" from (figuring inclusively), or beginning with, the wave-sheaf Sunday which must always fall during the Days of Unleavened Bread. The wavesheaf Sunday was the first day of the fifty-day count. Counting forty-nine days (seven full weeks) will bring you through seven Sabbaths. The very next Sunday is therefore the fiftieth day. This fiftieth day is to be observed as the Feast of Firstfruits (or Pentecost).
The Sadducees and most professing Christian scholars throughout history have concluded, erroneously, that the wave-sheaf Sunday could sometimes fall outside the Days of Unleavened Bread. But this is incorrect. This year, the wave-sheaf Sunday fell on the first day of Unleavened Bread — just as it did in the year of Israel's entry into the Promised Land (see Joshua 5:10, 11).
We are told in the King James Version that the Israelites ate the "old corn" (the Hebrew is, more correctly, "produce") of the land of Canaan on the 15th of Nisan. This was expressly forbidden unless and until they had offered to God the wave sheaf of their firstfruits (see Lev. 43:10-14). Since the wave sheaf was always offered on a Sunday during Unleavened Bread, the Passover during that year had to have fallen on the weekly Sabbath. The fifty days to Pentecost were reckoned beginning with the Sunday after Passover day, the 14th of Nisan.
In the twentieth century there were only eleven instances in which the last day of Unleavened Bread coincides with the weekly Sabbath — thereby producing a double Sabbath.
Many English translations of the twenty-third chapter of Leviticus (for counting Pentecost) are ambiguous or misleading. By using "from," which in English can be used either inclusively or exclusively, some confusion has resulted.
There was, however, according to the old WCG one modern English translation which renders Leviticus 23:15, 16 in plain, understandable English: "BEGINNING WITH the day after the sabbath, the day on which you bring the wave-offering sheaf, you shall count seven full weeks, and then on the day after the seventh week, the fiftieth day, you shall present the new cereal offering to the Lord" (The New American Bible, 1970 edition).
If we begin counting the fifty days to Pentecost, "beginning with the day after the sabbath" (Sunday), then we will always wind up keeping Pentecost on the right day — on a Sunday — just as did Christ, His disciples and the Sadducean priests.
Yes, it could be said that the Christian church, officially began on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2.
Yes, Jesus and the Apostles kept it.
Yes, despite some confusion and conflict between Jewish groups, Jesus and the disciples would have kept Pentecost on a Sunday.
Yes, Christians have kept Pentecost throughout the entire church age. We in the Continuing Church of God still do.
Anyway, yes, Pentecost helps picture the smaller Spring harvest. It is the feast of firstfruits--physically in the Old Testament, but spiritually in the New Testament.
Yes, only some are being called in this age--and those called chosen and faithful will be in the first resurrection (Revelation 20:5-6).
All others will be part of the second resurrection (Revelation 20:5:11).
The Day of Pentecost helps picture these things and is a vital part of God's plan of salvation.
A plan we teach in the Continuing Church of God.
Here is a link to a related sermon: Let's Talk About Pentecost.
Thiel B. What About Pentecost? COGwriter (c) http://www.cogwriter.com/pentecost-details.htm 2023 0527
Back to home page