Most of the Lord’s appointed feasts go by only one name. Passover is always called Passover. Unleavened Bread, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement and Feast of Tabernacles consistently use those names. But two of the seven feasts are more obscure; one has no name and the other has many names, making it easy to overlook them.

Why are these two feasts different?

It seems to me that there are things that God wants everyone to know, and there are things He will keep hidden until we are ready to receive them. Then, when you do see the truth, it hits with more force. Jesus taught in parables so that those who had ears to hear would hear, and those who were not receptive to the truth would not be further condemned. For similar reasons God taught His people, the Jews, through the Lord’s annual feasts, teaching special truths through the parable of harvests and firstfruits.

Before God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, He promised Eve that her “seed,” a descendent of hers, would crush the head of the serpent. Over the centuries God gradually unpackaged that promise. He promised to make Abraham into a great nation, to make him a blessing, and to bless all peoples on earth through him. God further clarified His promise through Jacob’s blessing of his sons: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.”[1] Young’s Literal Translation says, “Till his Seed come,” tying this prophecy with God’s promise to Eve.

Through the annual feasts God revealed more about how this Seed would crush the head of the serpent and thwart Satan’s desire to ruin God’s creation. Passover is clearly a picture of salvation—of the Lamb of God dying to take away the sin of the world. The Feast of Unleavened Bread is a picture of the life of holiness made possible through Jesus’ sacrifice for us. The Wave Sheaf ceremony is a picture of the resurrection.

The apostle Paul said the religious festivals are “a shadow of the things .. to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”[2] What reality is foreshadowed by Pentecost?

 

Names for Pentecost

  1. Feast of Harvest

Exodus introduces Pentecost as a feast of harvest. “Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field.” [3] This verse contains two “first mentions”—the feast of Pentecost and the topic of firstfruits. The first mention of any word or topic in Scripture is always significant.

Since Israel was an agrarian society, the Bible is scattered liberally throughout with agricultural references, and God designed His whole system of annual feasts around a harvest and firstfruits theme. The Lord’s appointed annual feasts focused in the spring on the grain harvests of barley and wheat. The fall feasts, known collectively as the Feast of Ingathering, celebrated all the crops, not just the seven listed in Deuteronomy 8:8.

  1. Day of firstfruits

Numbers calls Pentecost “the day of firstfruits,”[4] and Exodus and Leviticus also mention firstfruits in the context of Pentecost.[5]

  1. Feast of Weeks

The name used most consistently in the Old Testament is “Feast of Weeks.”[6]          This name is a reference to the seven weeks from the Wave Sheaf ceremony to the Feast of Weeks, Pentecost.

  1. Pentecost

The New Testament doesn’t use any of the Old Testament names. It consistently calls the feast “Pentecost.” This is a Greek word meaning “the fiftieth day,” a reference to the feast being fifty days after the Wave Sheaf offering (day one).

The Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2 is the fulfillment of the mystery of the Feast of Weeks. On that day the Holy Spirit came from heaven with the sound of a rushing mighty wind, rested with tongues of fire upon 120 disciples expectantly waiting for Him, and filled them all—and the Church was born. At the same time, the Church was betrothed to be married to Jesus, the Son of God, and to become His Bride.

With so many references to harvest and similarities between the Old Testament names, using the name Pentecost avoids confusion.

  1. No name

Surprisingly, the book of Leviticus, which has the most to say about this annual feast, gives it no name! Leviticus just jumps directly into telling people how to celebrate. This underlines the personal focus of Leviticus. After all, the celebration of Pentecost and becoming a member of God’s Church is personal. The coming of the Holy Spirit, is of great importance to the believer but of little or no interest to someone who is not in a personal relationship with God.

As we study Pentecost, we keep the topic of harvest in the back of our minds and ask the questions: Harvest of what? How is Pentecost connected with harvest? How is Pentecost connected with firstfruits?

Increasing evidence in the Bible will show that the harvest of Pentecost is the resurrection and rapture of the Bride of Christ. It is firstfruits because it occurs before the final seven years of Tribulation and before the final harvest of earth’s crops.

 

How to Celebrate the Feast of Weeks

  1. Count off

Talking to “you,” Leviticus tells us to “count off” seven full weeks “from the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath.”[7] From the fifty-day count we get the name “Pentecost.”

Both the Wave Sheaf and Pentecost have floating dates, whereas the rest of the seven feasts have fixed calendar dates. This further ties the two feasts together and separates them from the other five.

What is the reality found in Christ?

The floating dates—“the day after the Sabbath” for Firstfruits Wave Sheaf and “the day after the seventh Sabbath” for Pentecost—ensure that those feasts always land on a Sunday, thus pointing to Resurrection Day.

The Jews count the days on their calendar using the word Omer, the Hebrew word for “sheaf.” They count “Omer 1, Omer 2, Omer 3, … to Omer 50” as if counting the days of a new month.

What is the reality found in Christ?

This counting indicates anticipation, the way one would count the days to a highly anticipated event. Even though the Old Testament Jews didn’t know they were counting toward the coming of the Holy Spirit, they knew they were counting toward something important. The rest of the rituals would give them more clues, but the mystery would not be completely solved until the first day of Pentecost following Jesus’ ascension.

Jesus referred to this countdown when He commanded His followers, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”[8]

  1. Attitude of heart

In the instructions in Leviticus that follow the order to count off, “you” are repeatedly (5 times) told to do it “to the LORD.” Without God-consciousness on our part, anything we do is simply going through the motions. No celebration or sacrifice should deteriorate into ritual.

  1. Present two loaves made from two omers

“Present an offering of new grain to the LORD,” God said. “From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah [two omers] of fine flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD.”[9]

Both the Wave Sheaf and the two loaves of Pentecost involved waving two omers before the Lord. The two omers, together with counting from the Wave Sheaf ceremony to the Feast of Weeks, underline the point that the two feasts are connected.

  1. Don’t forget the poor

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.”[10]

Being betrothed to the Son of God and looking forward to our bridal week and wedding feast, we must not, in the meantime, be smug about our position in Christ. We must care for the poor and the alien while the Groom is preparing a place for us.

 

[1] Gen. 49:10
[2] Col 2:16-17
[3] Ex. 23:16
[4] Num. 28:26
[5] Ex. 23:16; 34:22; Lev. 23:17, 20
[6] Ex. 34:22; Num. 28:26; Deut. 16:10
[7] Lev. 23:15-16
[8] Acts 1:4-5
[9] Lev. 23:16-17
[10] Lev. 23:22

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