News & Prophecy Blog

Forgotten Purposes of Pentecost

Photo of wheat to represent Pentecost and the harvest of firstfruits.The New Testament Church observed and remembered the Feast of Pentecost every year for good reasons. Are those good reasons for remembering Pentecost still valid today?

You don’t hear much about Pentecost in mainstream Christianity today, and you hear even less about the other biblical festivals.

Instead, most churches prefer to remember and keep religious festivals that were devised by men who had absolutely no power whatsoever to make anything holy—while they ignore and declare obsolete the festivals God set apart as holy!

Mankind has made futile attempts to change what the all-powerful Eternal God has ordained forever. In truth, it is only God by His presence who can make a day holy or set it apart for His purpose. Furthermore, when He does, it remains holy forever or “throughout your generations” (Exodus 31:13).

God gave the annual and weekly holy days, including Pentecost, to be a sanctifying “sign” between Him and His people, whether in Old Testament times or New. God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

One accord in Jerusalem

In Luke 24:49 the disciples were instructed by Christ to “tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power [the Holy Spirit] from on high.” The book of Acts opens with the Feast of Pentecost (also known as the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Firstfruits) approaching. Chapter 2 begins, “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1).

The disciples were in Jerusalem, “with one accord in one place,” keeping the Feast of Pentecost, when “suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues [other languages], as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:2-4).

Christ: First of the firstfruits

Pentecost was initially given in Old Testament times and called the Feast of Weeks. The same holy day is called the Feast of Pentecost in New Testament times. According to His master plan, God Himself decreed that His Holy Spirit would be given to the first crop of “firstfruits” on that Pentecost, just 50 days after Christ’s ascension to heaven.

Pentecost basically means 50th. Fifty days is comparable to seven weeks plus a day; hence the original Old Testament name Feast of Weeks.

In Old Testament times ancient Israel could not eat any of the new grain harvest until a sheaf of firstfruits was offered to God (Leviticus 23:14). The spiritual fulfillment of this offering was the resurrected Christ’s ascension to His Father as the first of the firstfruits or the “firstborn among many brethren” (1 Corinthians 15:23; Romans 8:29). That offering marked the beginning of the 50-day count to Pentecost.

Two harvests in God’s plan

Many people look at the world today and think God is losing the battle for men’s hearts and minds. They see how few people are truly following Christ and think that God must be losing in a struggle to save the world now.

But those Christians who keep Pentecost and the other biblical festivals today understand that God is not trying desperately to “save” the entire world now. He absolutely does have that in mind for a later time when “the rest of the dead” (Revelation 20:5-6) rise in a second resurrection.

These same verses also mention the “first resurrection.” This is the resurrection of the firstfruits who have received the Holy Spirit since that first New Testament Feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem. Clearly there are two resurrections referred to in Revelation 20:5-6—one for the firstfruits and one for “the rest of the dead.”

Following the faith once delivered

Those firstfruits are those who follow the example of Jesus Christ and the New Testament Church. They follow His steps by keeping “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). This certainly includes obedience to God’s law, including the annual Sabbath of Pentecost.

It is right and necessary for Christians to remember that without the fulfillment of Pentecost, there would be no giving of the Holy Spirit to make possible that first resurrection. Through the process of repentance, baptism and the receiving of God’s Holy Spirit, God is right now calling a select few who will share in that “first” resurrection to eternal life and be prepared for working with Jesus Christ to give all humanity the opportunity to repent and be converted.

Eddie and Sandra Johnson serve the membership in the Tonbridge, England, congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association. He is an ordained elder.

For more about Pentecost and God’s plan of salvation, see:

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