Posted by: Michael Stevenson on Fri, Apr 22, 2011
WHILE in the process of revealing to mankind His plan of redemption, God had established seven annual holy days—annual Sabbaths—which are to be kept and center around the harvest seasons of the Middle East (Leviticus 23:9-16; Exodus 23:14-16). Just as His people harvested their crops at these three times of the year, God’s Holy Days are to help to show to us just how He is harvesting His own people for eternal life within the Kingdom of God.
The Holy Days are meant to show to us that they build upon each other—establishing in its own right a truth that pertains to the Kingdom of God—a various degree of events or epics which will take place within the time that will lead up to the establishment and even after the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. Together, these holy days will reveal to us how God is working with mankind today!
We have looked at the Passover and also the Days of Unleavened Bread, now it becomes quite important for us to look at the Day of Pentecost, or Feast of Firstfruits. We have seen already how at Passover, the Lamb of God—Jesus Christ—was slain for our sins and then we saw how at the Days of Unleavened Bread, we find pictured for us what reminds us of leaving behind our sins—a time in which we get rid of leavening out of our lives for seven days which picture ridding our lives permanently of sin.
The Day of Pentecost is known by several names that derive from its meaning and timing. Also known as the Feast of Harvest (Exodus 23:16), it is that day which represents the firstfruits (Numbers 28:26) which are gathered as the result of the labor of those who completed the spring grain harvests in ancient Israel (Exodus 23:16) which therefore symbolizes the Church of God brethren who have completed their salvation and are now harvesting into the Church others whom are ready to come forth into the body of Jesus Christ.
Another name for the feast is the Feast of Weeks (Exodus 34:22), with this name having come from the seven weeks plus one day (50 days in all) that are actually counted to determine when to observe this feast (Leviticus 23:16). Likewise, in the New Testament, which was written in the Greek, this feast is also known as Pentecost which means fiftieth.
Among the Jews, the most popular name for this feast is the Feast of Weeks or the Shavuot in Hebrew. When keeping this feast, many Jews will recall one of the greatest events of all history—God’s revealing of the law at Mount Sinai.
But, the Day of Pentecost does not just picture God’s giving of His law at the Mount—but also shows through a miracle that took place on this day in the early Church—how we are to keep the spiritual intent of God’s laws—showing to us the very birthday of the Church of God (31 C.E.) and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon that day.
God’s Gift to Us: The Holy Spirit
With God, there is no accidents—rather, all that God does has a purpose, a reason and with God’s Holy Spirit being poured out at the time that it was poured out onto the believers who were there at the day of Pentecost, there is no accident with this. After Jesus’ resurrection, He told His disciples to “…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 Ghost not many days hence…But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth”—Acts 1:4-5, 8. Jesus was promising the disciples that they were to wait and that they would receive the Holy Spirit. But then came the day when 120 believers met and “Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And 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 [languages], as the Spirit gave them utterance”—Acts 2:1-4, NKJV.
This speaking in different languages had taken place while a crowd of people had gathered in Jerusalem, with each visitor having heard the speech of the disciples within their own language (vs. 6-11). These events had showed the presence of the Holy Spirit.
To begin with, the people were amazed and shocked by what they had heard, thinking that the Christians were drunk (Acts 2:12-13). But, Peter, now being filled with the Holy Spirit, had explained the even to them that had heard as a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh”—Acts 2:17; Joel 2:28.
Peter told them that they could also receive the Holy Spirit and for them to repent and to also be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of their own sins—then they would actually receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-29).
God had used this awesome occasion and Peter’s preaching to convert 3,000 people to His Church that one day. These converts had all be baptized and were given the Holy Spirit (vs. 40-41). From this point, God’s Spirit has been given to all who will truly repent and who are properly baptized. The Day of Pentecost is that annual reminder to us today that God has poured out His own Spirit upon His own people and to establish the very true Church of God—the spiritual body of Jesus Christ, the group of believers that are truly led by His Spirit.
But, Why Do We Need the Holy Spirit?
Humanly speaking, no matter how hard we try not to, we will still sin (1 Kings 8:46; Romans 3:23). By acknowledging our weaknesses of humanity, God has decided in Deuteronomy 5:29 that “Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments that it might be well with them and with their children forever!”
Here, God was saying that mankind has a problem with their heart—that our hearts are not in line with God’s ways. Becoming godly in our thoughts, actions and deeds is beyond the comprehension and the ability of mankind without an added ingredient—the Holy Spirit!
Hence, God’s way of thinking is that which will give to us peace, happiness, and concern for all people. Jesus had complimented a lawyer who had quoted correctly the essence of God’s awesome law: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind” and “love your neighbor as yourself”—Luke 10:27. Tis man had quoted from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, from two books in the Torah—the first five books of which Moses wrote which are the first five in the Old Testament. Jesus had confirmed that the Old Testament Scriptures are actually based on these two great principles of love (Matthew 22:40).
God had displayed His great love for mankind in two great ways, first He displayed His love for us through the sacrifice of His Son—Jesus Christ—who willingly died for each one of us (John 3:16) and because of this, Jesus Christ overcame sin. He made it possible that we could overcome sin. Then second, God gave us His Holy Spirit to aid us in overcoming sin and to help us to receive His way of life within our hearts.
Writing to the brethren, John said that “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome”—1 John 5:2-3.
So then, because God’s Spirit dwells in those who are converted to the Church, then the members of that Church can express real love. “A new commandment I give to you” Jesus had said, “That you love one another; as I have loved you…By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”—John 13:34-35. So then, God’s gift of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost is that which has made it possible for the Church of God to actually fully express God’s true commandment of real love!
Jesus Christ In Regards to the Firstfruits of Eternal Life
Firstfruits are the first products that mature and ripen in agriculture. Throughout the Bible, God has used this analogy of the harvest---and in particular on Pentecost, firstfruits—to give to us an illustration of His plan of redemption. Israel had kept this day in the late spring, after the barley and the wheat harvest. A special offering which was of the first ripe grain during the Days of Unleavened Bread that had been known as the wave-sheaf offering that was marking the beginning of these harvests, which had then continued on for the next fifty days leading up to the day of Pentecost (Leviticus 23:11). During this spring harvest, we had the firstfruits of the yearly agriculture time cycle.
One of the first harvest lessons within the New Testament is that Jesus Christ “is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep”—1 Corinthians 15:20. The wave-sheaf offering had thus represented Jesus Christ, who was the firstborn over all creation and the “firstborn from the dead”—Colossians 1:15, 18. He then presented Himself to the Father on the Sunday that followed His resurrection, the same day during the days of Unleavened Bread on which the first sheaf of grain of the spring harvest was to be actually waved before God.
It was early on this first day of the week (Sunday), while it was still dark and after Jesus had already been raised from the dead (John 20:1), that Mary Magdalene had come to His tomb and found that the rock was rolled away and that it was empty. She then ran to tell Peter and John that Jesus was no longer in that tomb. The two men had then rushed back to see this for themselves and to also verify that Jesus’ body was indeed gone (John 20:2-10). Mary then returned as well and, after Peter and John had left, Jesus came to her outside the tomb (v.11). As she was crying, Jesus came to her and asked her why she was crying and she told Him. But then He revealed who He was to her and told her not to touch Him because He had “not yet ascended” to the Father (John 20:17).
Later this same day, Jesus again appeared, and this time allowing certain women to touch Him (Matthew 28:9). His own words show to us that between this time that He visited Mary Magdalene and the time He allowed the women to touch Him, that He had ascended to the Father.
The wave-sheaf ceremony then given to Israel had represented Jesus’ acceptance by the Father as “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep”—1 Corinthians 15:20.
The Church as the Firstfruits Also!
Jesus Christ is referred to as “the firstborn of many brethren”—Romans 8:29. Yet, the New Testament also tells us that the Church of God is also the firstfruits. In speaking of the Father, James had said that “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.
God’s Spirit within us is also that which identifies us and makes us holy—setting us apart to be Christians—allowing us to be in God’s own people and “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God”—Romans 8:9, 14).
Paul had also referred to the brethren of the Church as those “who have the firstfruits of the Spirit”—v.23. He had alluded to several first-century Christians as the firstfruits of God’s calling (Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:15).
The importance of the Bible’s writers calling these people of God firstfruits then become known when we look at what Jesus said when He said that “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me”—John 14:6.
How many, then, through all the centuries have actually accepted and practiced real Christianity as Jesus taught? Even today, most have simply never heard much, if anything at all, about Jesus Christ and how God offers His salvation to them.
Few people even actually understand that God has a plan that is systematic, symbolized by His Holy days, to save all mankind by offering to give all people eternal life in His Kingdom. In this world, we are simply at the very beginning of the harvest for the Kingdom.
Paul even understood this: “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep…For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming”—1 Corinthians 15:20, 22-23. Therefore, those who are now called and chosen by God is then included with Jesus as God’s firstfruits and will be raised at His coming (James 1:18).
Further, we are taught by the Bible that God must also call His people (John 6:44; 6:63). Our Creator therefore, is the One who controls the very timing of His harvest. When God started His Church with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, He was expanding His spiritual harvest. It was then at this beginning of what Joel had prophesied, that God will ultimately pour our His Spirit upon all mankind (Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:14-17) and give us a great opportunity to become a part of the Kingdom of God at that day.
The Work of the Holy Spirit
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit also changed the lives of these early Christians. Acts is filled with many accounts of the early Church’s remarkable spiritual impact that it had on the surrounding society. A transformation is apparent that nonbelievers had accused the Christians of “turning the world upside down”—Acts 17:6. Such was the very awesome power of the Holy Spirit.
To then fully understand just how it is that God’s Spirit works with us, we need to understand what the Holy Spirit is. It is not a person, who, along with God the Father and Jesus Christ, forms a “Trinity.” Within the Bible, the Holly Spirit is talked of as the power of God at work in our own lives (Acts 1:8; Romans 15:13, 19) and this same power is what worked in the ministry of Jesus Christ (Luke 4:14; Acts 10:38).
This very awesome power allows us to be “led by the Spirit of God”—Romans 8:14. Thus, it was this same power which transformed the lives of those early Christians and is the power working the Church today. Paul had told Timothy that God’s Spirit is a “spirit of…power and of love and of a sound mind”—2 Timothy 1:7.
Pentecost therefore is that special day each year that gives to us a reminder of the fact that God still works miracles, granting to His people the Holy Spirit and calling Christians to be the firstfruits of His spiritual harvest while empowering them with the awesome ability to carry out His very work in the world today.
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