Like all the other Holy Days, Pentecost is full of rich meaning and symbolism in God’s plan for humanity. In this brief article we will scratch the surface of the themes and meaning within this festival. We will begin by addressing the various names for the day. Then we will look at some controversy about its observance. We will see what the significance of the day may have been in the Old and New Testaments and conclude with its future application and how you may be able to help your friends look at the other Holy Days by discussing Pentecost.
Pentecost has many names. Pentecost is a Greek term that has to do with the number of days (50) counted forward from the Days of Unleavened Bread to determine which day will be Pentecost. Another name for this festival is the Feast of Firstfruits. It gets this name because in the late spring (May/June) the Israelites would harvest the firstfruits of their crops. This Holy Day is also referred to as the Feast of Weeks because it takes seven weeks from the Days of Unleavened Bread until Pentecost. Like the Days of Unleavened Bread, there is some controversy over Pentecost.
The point of contention centers on how to interpret Leviticus 23:11. This scripture tells us to begin the 50 day count to Pentecost after the Sabbath that occurs during the Days of Unleavened Bread. The problem is during the Days of Unleavened Bread there is a weekly Sabbath and also the Holy Day Sabbath for the
First Day of Unleavened Bread. The two major groups of Jewish leaders at the time of Jesus were divided on this issue. The Sadducees believed the count should begin after the weekly Sabbath while the Pharisees believed it should begin after the annual Holy Day Sabbath. After the destruction of the Temple in 70AD the Sadducees became less influential and the Pharisees view became more popular. Today the Pharisees’ view is used.
One of the themes of Pentecost in the Old Testament deals with the law. Although a scripture that unequivocally states it cannot be found—many scholars believe the law of God was delivered to Israel on the Day of Pentecost after Israel left Egypt. This idea seems to coincide with what happened on the Day of Pentecost in the New Testament church.
In Acts chapter 2 we read the account of the Holy Spirit coming upon the early church for the first time after the death of Jesus. The connection here with the law is that now Christians have a greater ability to observe God’s laws because of our access to the Holy Spirit. Jesus allowed himself to be sacrificed to create a way for everyone to receive God’s Holy Spirit.
Like all the other Holy Days, Pentecost also has a future application. We can find evidence of this in scriptures like James 1:18 where Christians are likened to firstfruits. When this knowledge is combined with our understanding of the first resurrection for those who are true believers (I Corinthians 15) with the fact there will be a latter resurrection (Revelation 20) for the rest of the dead, the picture begins to become clearer as to what God is doing. God will raise some people to life earlier (firstfruits) than others. But the implication is if you have firstfruits you will have to have latter fruits. The latter fruits are addressed when we study the Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day.
Unlike the other Biblical Holy Days Pentecost is observed by mainline Christian churches too. This has a lot to do with the fact Pentecost was the day the New Testament church began. But this could be a good point to raise with friends you have in other mainline Christian churches. You may want to ask them why they only observe Pentecost and not the other Holy Days which all originated in the same context. Showing your friends scriptures like I Corinthians 16:7-8, where Paul addresses his need to observe Pentecost about 30 years after Christ’s death, may help support your case for observance of the other Holy Days which are addressed in the New Testament. Best wishes in trying to make others aware of the fact they can become firstfruits.