Tag Archives: Pentecost

The Context of Pentecost Matters

by Pastor Greg Denham

While many believers today are praying for a “Jesus Movement”—an incredible work of the gospel—in our generation, to truly grasp what it means to be a Jesus follower, we need to understand the first believers, and it all begins at Pentecost. The impact of Pentecost is just as relevant today as it was two thousand years ago in the upper room. Pentecost began the Jesus Revolution. One might say that we must go backward to go forward, so let us journey back in time and learn how the context of Pentecost matters.

Following His resurrection, Jesus instructed His disciples in Acts 1:4 to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father. We now know that He had a specific day in mind for that promise to be revealed—the day of Pentecost, which is one of the three pilgrim festivals required by the Lord (Exodus 23:14–17; 34:18–24; Deuteronomy 16:16–17). Pentecost comes from the Greek word penteconta (πεντήκοντα), which means fifty. The number fifty refers to the fifty days of counting the harvest, which began immediately after Passover.

The Hebrew name is Shavuot (שָׁבוּעוֹת), which means “weeks” and comes from the Hebrew word for “seven.” Shavuot is a harvest festival celebrating the end of the barley harvest and the first fruits of the wheat harvest. Yet, on the minds of the hundreds of thousands in Jerusalem for the Shavuot (Pentecost) festival was the belief that the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) had been given on Shavuot 1,300 years earlier. The Jewish tradition is called Z’man Matan Torah, “the season of the giving of the Law,” when the Lord separated His people from Egypt and drew them into a relationship with Him. It is when the earth shook with flashes of lightning, and God spoke in thunder!

Fifty days after Jesus gave His life on the cross was “when the day of Pentecost had fully come” (Acts 2:1). The events that follow reveal that the parallels between the giving of the Law and the giving of the Spirit—the beginning of the Jesus Revolution—are unmistakable. God manifested His presence atop Mount Sinai; 1,300 years later, He began the Jesus Revolution and inaugurated the New Covenant atop Mount Zion when He revealed His presence, power, and purpose to one hundred twenty Jewish believers. On Mount Sinai, God gave His commandments, written with His finger on tablets of stone; but at Pentecost in Jerusalem, He sent His Spirit to write His commandments on human hearts. At Mount Sinai, God judged three thousand for idolatry; but on the top of Mount Zion, three thousand people came to faith in Messiah Jesus!

In essence, the knowledge of God was exploding through the faithful remnant of Israel in the one hundred twenty followers of Jesus in the upper room! They were the remnant that was publicly and divinely identified by the tongues of fire above their heads and given the gift of tongues to communicate the wonderful works of God to an international gathering from fifteen different geographical locations with a variety of languages (Acts 2:3; 5–11). Peter declared, after being empowered and gifted by the Spirit, that Jesus, in His death, resurrection, and ascension, was creating all things new in Himself and would return to establish His kingdom on the earth in the city of Jerusalem! The New Covenant, inaugurated by Jesus’ blood on the cross at Passover, was now transforming three thousand Jewish people who had repented (Acts 2:37–41) and in whom now dwelt the Spirit of God. Now, the nations of the world could enter the New Covenant given to Israel, and could now experience the outpouring of God’s Spirit, too. (Acts 2:16-21; 39)

God’s plan, clearly revealed in His Word, has always been unstoppable! In that light, it is not surprising that both Passover and Pentecost frame God’s redemption narrative and point us to Jesus, the Messiah, who completes it.

Years ago, the apologist and Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer was asked, “What is the greatest obstacle to the modern church?” His answer was fascinating. He did not say that the major problems were the “-isms” in culture: atheism, materialism, relativism, etc. Instead, he said, “The real problem is this: the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually or corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit. The central problem is always in the midst of the people of God, not in the circumstances surrounding them.”[1]

Rediscovering the beginning of the Jesus Revolution in the first century—in its original context—can renew and even reorient to God’s intended course and mission for the Church!

For example, the context of Pentecost tells us that we can only accomplish God’s purposes for our lives in His strength! Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The Spirit’s work is comprehensive. He indwells the believer and gives assurance of being a child of God (Romans 8:16). He brings a believer into fellowship with “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15). The Spirit comes upon the believer to empower with divine gifting for a divine mission. Zechariah 4:6 reads, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” The Spirit of God is the source of our strength in all areas of our life. We need to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18) daily!

The context of Pentecost also tells us that Peter was addressing a specific audience in Acts 2:22, namely, the Jewish pilgrims who went to the Temple to give their offerings. In principle, it speaks of the often overlooked priority of Jewish evangelism. In Romans 1:16, Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Paul wrote this in the present tense, which means that if the gospel is still the power of God “for” salvation and is still for “everyone who believes,” then the gospel is still “to the Jew first.” The term “first” does not merely speak of sequence, but priority.[2]

Later, the Apostle Peter underscored an eschatological link to Jewish evangelism by saying,

Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. (Acts 3:19–21)

Peter’s statement is consistent with Jesus saying, “For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Matthew 23:39). Additionally, Revelation 1:7 reads, “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.” The reality is that before the world sees Him, Jerusalem will turn to Him! (Zechariah 12:10), “And so all Israel will be saved…” (Romans 11:26).

You can see that there is a tremendous spiritual battle regarding evangelism, of which we must be aware. “If Jerusalem will not see Him until she welcomes Him back, then no eye will see Him until Jerusalem receives Him!”[3] The origin of the Jesus Revolution at Pentecost reminds us that we cannot allow Jewish evangelism to become the “great omission” of the Great Commission.[4]

Pentecost reveals that the bullseye of the Church’s mission and preaching is the Person and work of Jesus! Peter proclaimed, “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene…” (Acts 2:22). Keep the focus on Jesus, His death on the cross that bridged the gap between God and man, and His resurrection. Jesus demonstrates by rising from the dead that He is creating all things new in Himself. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). Acts 4:12 reads, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” There is only one reason why a person has eternal life in a right relationship with God; it is by making the right decision to follow Jesus (John 14:6; Romans 10:13; Acts 4:12; John 3:16)!

The context reveals the importance of repentance! On the day of Pentecost, the people were “pierced to the heart” and said, “‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:37–38).

The Greek word translated as repentance is metanoia[5] (μετάνοια), which means to change the way one thinks. Such a change leads to a lifestyle change from a self-centered life in rebellion to God to a complete allegiance to Jesus Christ as one’s Lord and Savior. The call to repent and the promise to receive the Holy Spirit and forgiveness of sins remains today! In fact, God commands everyone to repent! The Apostle Paul said,

“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30–31).

The great evangelist D. L. Moody put it this way “Repentance is getting out of one train and getting into the other. You are in the wrong train; you are in the broad path that takes you down to the pit of hell. Get out of it to-night. Right-about-face!”[6]

Finally, the context of Pentecost reminds us that God’s plan unfolded in a Jewish environment. This perspective is essential for deepening one’s understanding of the Scriptures! We need great teachers today, we need great evangelists today, and we need a Church grounded in the truth and making Jesus known by the power of the Holy Spirit! The Jewish context is the basis for the accurate exegesis of Scripture, expository preaching, evangelism, and gospel contextualization in our twenty-first-century global audience.


Greg Denham is the pastor of Rise Church in San Marcos, California. Greg is a dear friend of Dr. Mitch Glaser, president of Chosen People Ministries. Greg loves the Lord, the Jewish roots of the faith, and is an active student of all biblical matters related to Israel and the Jewish people.

To contact Greg, or visit Rise Church online, click here.


Footnotes:

[1] Francis A. Schaeffer, No Little People (Introduction by Udo Middlemann) (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2003), 66.

[2] Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, trans. and rev. W. F. Arndt and F. W. Gingrich, second rev. F. W. Gingrich and F. W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 726; Wilhelm Michaelis, “proton,” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, trans. and ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968), 6:869.

[3] Michael L. Brown, Our Hands Are Stained with Blood: The Tragic Story of the Church and the Jewish People, revised & expanded ed. (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, Inc., 2019), 226.

[4] Mitch Glaser, (lecture, Talbot School of Theology, La Mirada, CA).

[5] Metanoia literally means a change of mind. The Greek verb translated as “Repent!” is related to μετάνοια. The second-person plural imperative form of the verb μετανοέω (metanoeō) is mετανοήσατε, which is the word Peter used in Acts 2:38.

[6] W. H. Daniels, D. L. Moody and His Work (Hartford: American Publishing Company, 1876), 471.

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The Joy of Shavuot

Shalom, friends!

We are looking ahead with anticipation of what our life will be like after the coronavirus pandemic subsides. With Passover and Easter behind us, we now find ourselves also looking forward to the celebration of Pentecost (Shavuot in Hebrew).

Shavuot (Hebrew for “weeks”) is known to Christians as Pentecost. It is one of three pilgrimage feasts found in the Hebrew Scriptures when God commands the Jewish people to go up to Jerusalem and worship at the Temple, and the last of the spring festivals. The festivals of Israel were designed by God to focus the hearts and minds of the Jewish people on God’s redemptive message.

The Spring Festivals

The Spring festivals listed in Leviticus 23 are Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The offering of firstfruits is mentioned in Leviticus 23:9–13. Each of these observances points to the Messiah in different ways. Passover is a prophetic portrait of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The celebration of unleavened bread reminds us of the sinless nature of the Savior. The offering of the firstfruits points to a Messiah who would rise as the first fruit from among the dead.

The final Spring celebration is Shavuot, literally “weeks” in Hebrew, from the root word for “seven.” The Lord commanded Israel to count seven weeks from the day of the firstfruit offering (Leviticus 23:15) until the fiftieth day, at which point they observed Shavuot. In Christian tradition, this same festival is called Pentecost, which is the Greek term for “fifty.”

There are many Jewish traditions associated with Shavuot, such as reading the Book of Ruth, spending the entire night studying the Torah, chanting the Ten Commandments, decorating synagogues and homes with aromatic spices, and partaking of a dairy meal.

We read the Book of Ruth because Shavuot is a harvest-time account of Ruth, a Gentile, who identifies with the Jewish people and by following after herself to her Israelite mother-in-law, Naomi, and her God. Ruth is the great-grandmother of King David and part of the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:5), which speaks of God’s intention to include Gentiles in the outpouring of His messianic blessings.

The Foods of Shavuot

No Jewish holiday is complete without its signature cuisine! According to long-standing custom, dairy foods such as cheese, cheesecake, and cheese blintzes (a delicious sweet cheese-filled crepe) are eaten on Shavuot. This tradition may be based on a passage in Song of Songs: “Your lips, my bride, drip honey; honey and milk are under your tongue, and the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon” (Song of Songs 4:11).

This association compares the Bible to the sweetness of milk and honey. In some European cities, Jewish children are introduced to Bible study on Shavuot by eating honey cakes with passages from the Bible written on them.

The Messianic Fulfillment of the Festival

Now, if Passover was fulfilled in the death of the Lamb of God, the Feast of Unleavened Bread in His sinless character, and the first fruits offering in His resurrection, then we must ask ourselves: How did the first coming of Jesus fulfill the Day of Pentecost? It is no coincidence that God selected this Jewish festival as the day when he would send His Holy Spirit.

The Promise of the Spirit

According to Acts 1:15, there were 120 Jewish believers in one place, of one mind, praying and focusing on God’s work. They were waiting in obedience to the command of Jesus (Acts 1:4–5) and were observing the laws of Shavuot regarding “no work” (Leviticus 23:21). Many were pilgrims who had left their homes in other places to be part of this festival, as Pentecost was one of the three festivals when Jewish people were commanded to “go up to Jerusalem” to worship. These worshippers probably remained in Jerusalem between Passover and Pentecost and were, therefore, away from home for two months. God would bless their obedience now in a powerful way.

After many days of patient waiting, the presence and power of the Holy Spirit fell upon the disciples on the fiftieth day after Passover. It was a new revelation given on Shavuot/Pentecost! The giving of the Torah by Moses at Mount Sinai had come with signs and wonders, as seen in Exodus 19.

So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder. (Exodus 19:16–19)

There were signs and wonders in the Upper Room, marking this transformed Pentecost, as well. It was the birthday of a new revelation and the fulfillment of God’s promises to pour out His Spirit in the last days!

The Tradition of All Israel Being Present at Sinai

According to Jewish tradition, our sages taught that every Jew who would ever live was at Mount Sinai, pledging their obedience to the Law. The rationale for this is that every Jewish person at that moment agreed to keep the Torah. The verse used to teach this is in Exodus 24:7: “Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!’”

This Jewish tradition avers that every Jewish person standing at the foot of Mount Sinai that day heard the giving of the Law in their native tongue so that they could understand what they were hearing and obey. Now, this is a tradition; we do not believe this actually took place. But this custom is ancient and may have been known by Jesus and His disciples.

This new Pentecost took place fifty days after Jesus, the Lamb of God, died for our sins. There were signs and wonders accompanying the pouring out of the Spirit, just like at Mount Sinai, and those who listened to the disciples preaching heard this new revelation in their native tongue. The giving of the Spirit had come in a similar powerful manner as the giving of the Law at Sinai and therefore had great authority for the disciples and the Jewish people gathered who also witnessed this event.

How gracious of God to use our culture and human understanding to communicate His truth to us! He communicates with us in ways we can understand: God could make His point otherwise, but He often reveals Himself and His truth in ways that humans can understand.

Perhaps the best example of this is when the Son of God Himself took on flesh to communicate with you and me and help us better understand the Father.

Counting the Days

We do not know when the pandemic will end, and therefore we are unable to count the days until this challenging time is finished! We do know, however, that God is at work in the waiting. That is one of the lessons of Pentecost, which is clearly stated in the Psalms, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

May you be blessed in your waiting!
Your brother in Messiah,
Mitch

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Pentecost & Waiting with Hope

Shalom, friends.

I am writing this note to you from New York City at the beginning of April. Spring is in the air, and Passover and Easter are around the corner. Normally, I would be more upbeat, looking forward to the warmer weather, sunshine, and the beauty, believe it or not, of the parks and gardens in New York City.

But, not this year!

We are still at war with an unseen enemy.

As C. S. Lewis wrote,

War creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it.
(C. S. Lewis, Weight of Glory, p. 44)

This has been so true of our battles against the coronavirus. It has pushed us all to the brink of our human frailty and weakness! For a born-and-bred New Yorker, I can tell you that the impact on our lives, economy, and especially our souls is devastating. We are at the end of ourselves and have only one place to look, and that is up to the heavens. So many are broken in health and finances and are now searching for spiritual answers as earthly solutions leave us hopeless.

This morning, I awoke to an email telling me that the relative of a dedicated Christian sister, a Jewish person who as far as we know did not know the Lord, passed away from respiratory complications due to the virus. And there are many others who will pass into eternity from this dreadful disease.

I wanted to bring you up to date on what it is like for us in New York City, which, if you remember, has the largest Jewish population in the United States.

THE STATE OF THE MISSION

We closed the Chosen People Ministries New York headquarters and Brooklyn offices, and we are working remotely to try to keep our staff healthy and in compliance with the mandated shutdowns of “non-essential” businesses. I did not mind doing this and thought it was the right thing to do, especially as much of our staff travels to work by bus or subway, where the density of people and space limitations are breeding grounds for illnesses—even in ordinary times.

Our administrative staff of more than twenty-five people meet “virtually” (by Zoom) for prayer every morning. This group represents the backbone of Your Mission to the Jewish People and handles our office tasks related to finance, print and digital publications, creating video content, church calling, development, and much more. These prayer meetings enable us to stay connected spiritually through prayer and worship. As a result, we are more unified than ever, and all of our administrative systems are working well…Thank God!

However, I noticed in our prayer time this week that more and more of us know someone who has the virus and a few who have died. At this moment (and I hope it has changed by the time you are reading this), my hometown is a battlefield, similar to what I experienced during 9/11!

Yet, in spite of the suffering that comes from the disease, isolation, economic uncertainty, and a massive shift in the way we live, worship, and work for the moment…I know that God is still in control!

I am glad that we had already started using the Internet for ministry years ago. We have now intensified our digital outreach and follow-up. We have more Bible studies with Jewish people happening right now than I can count. I am amazed by the way our staff has adapted to the new environment and are reaching out in new and creative ways to the Jew first and also to the Gentile!

This is not only true in the United States, where we serve in two dozen cities, but also in other countries, including Canada, England, Argentina, and Israel to name a few. Chosen People Ministries is in eighteen countries, and once the dust settles and a missionary family moves to Brazil to conduct ministry among traveling Israelis, we will add Brazil as number nineteen.

In Israel, where there is currently a severe lockdown and incredible uncertainty about the future, we continue our online Hebrew Isaiah 53 Campaign, Passover outreaches, and meetings with dozens of Israelis online who are seeking the Lord.

I am so glad our dedicated and innovative staff are finding new ways to meet these seekers through the phone, Zoom, Skype, and other tools which have enabled new pathways for personal communications.

Someone compared this new technology to the Roman roads of the first century—one of the possible reasons for the rapid spread of the gospel throughout the world. The good news is now traveling from place to place through disciples of Jesus using digital tools.

I am hoping that when life returns to “normal,” we will have discovered many new ways of reaching today’s Jewish community with the gospel and will continue using them.

A BEAUTIFUL JEWISH PRAYER

One of my favorite Jewish prayers is called the Shehechiyanu. The word simply means “has given us life.” The prayer is as follows:

“Blessed are You, Lord our God, Sovereign of all, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.”

We say this prayer at the start of something new—whether it be the first day of a holiday, beginning life in a new home, a new job, or after a season of hardship.

I look forward to joyfully reciting this prayer when this vicious virus has been controlled and conquered. Meanwhile, we will serve the Lord and wait for His deliverance. It is the waiting, especially in isolation, that is so difficult! God’s people learn patience by waiting. It is the Lord who allows us to experience difficult situations to teach us how to wait on Him.

HOPE AND THE DAY OF PENTECOST

Jewish people around the world are now counting off fifty days between Passover and Pentecost, which begins on May 28, 2020. I see a wonderful convergence between our waiting the fifty days and looking towards the day when the virus is gone.

The Shehechiyanu prayer is recited on Pentecost, The Feast of Weeks (Shavuot) in Jewish tradition. As believers in Jesus, we view this holiday through the lens of Acts chapter 2, when the Lord poured out His Spirit upon one hundred twenty Messianic Jews waiting in an upper room for the promise of the Spirit.

The Spirit empowered them to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19–20), beginning in Jerusalem and, eventually, to the remotest part of the earth (Acts 1:8).

These early disciples and my Jewish tradition teach me to wait. The disciples were waiting for the coming of the Spirit. I am waiting for a more “normal” existence—but even more so for the great day of redemption when the Lord returns to reign as King!

When this season of suffering and testing passes, I plan to shout the Shehechiyanu to the Lord.

I will thank the Lord for bringing us to this new season with more enthusiasm than perhaps on any previous Day of Pentecost! I plan to praise God for a new start after being reminded so powerfully of His priorities and that our lives must be dedicated to the proclamation of the gospel. It is all that matters, as this life is frail and momentary.

One day, every tear will finally be wiped away. Until then, we know what we must do!

We are called to proclaim the gospel as we await His return.

And if for some reason we are still in the midst of the crisis, my thoughts about the future will not change—just the dates. He is still the Lord, and He is in control. He loves us, and our future is not knitted to this world, but rather tethered to the age to come and to the One who gives us the gift of everlasting life—Jesus our Messiah.

Stay strong and serve the Lord,

Mitch

P.S. We know you have suffered as well, and we want to pray for you. Please include your prayer requests for our prayer teams to uphold you and your families before the Lord. Visit chosenpeople.com/pray.

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Shavuot – The Day of Pentecost and The Festivals of Israel

Shavuot – The Day of Pentecost The Festivals of Israel

The festivals of Israel were designed by God to focus the hearts and minds of the Jewish on various elements of God’s person and plan.   In addition, the Festivals, as much as any other portion of the Hebrew Scriptures also point to the coming of the Messiah. This is especially true of the seven great festivals outlined in Leviticus chapter 23.

I believe the four Spring Festivals were fulfilled in the first coming of Jesus.   The three Fall Festivals will be fulfilled in His second coming.

The Fourth Spring Festival

The Biblical Names

Shavuot – Weeks – 7 weeks after Passover

The fourth and final Spring Festival is called Shavuot. This word means seven because seven-sevens – or seven, seven-day weeks are to be counted by the Jewish people; beginning with Passover and then Shavuot is to be observed on the 50th day.

Pentecost – Fifty – 50th day after Passover

In Christian tradition the festival is called Pentecost – the Greek term which means 50, as this fourth spring festival is observed on the 50th day after Passover.

The Traditional Jewish Names

Zman Matan Torah – ‘the season of the giving of the Law’ – One of the Hebrew titles for the holiday in Jewish tradition is Zman Matan Torah – ‘the season of the giving of the Law’ as the Rabbis believed that the Torah was given on the day of Pentecost.  We eat special holiday bread – a reminder of the Jewish tradition that Moses climbed a ladder to heaven to receive the Law.  Shavuot is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people and the Talmud tells us that God gave the Ten Commandments to the Jews on the sixth night of the Hebrew month of Sivan.

The Biblical Commands

  • Sheuvot always falls 50 days after the second night of Passover. The 49 days in between are known as the Omer.  A later Jewish tradition teaches that the Torah was given on Shavuot.
  • The counting for the 50 days was to begin on that ‘day after the Sabbath’(Lev. 23:15), the day when the First Fruit/sheaf was waved occurred on the day.
  • They offered two leavened loaves of bread concluding the grain harvest. (Lev. 23:17), which was the Tithe (Lev. 27:30).
  • The two-loaves were the results (symbolically) of the one sheaf, waved before the Lord on the Day of First Fruits mentioned in Lev. 23:11
  • Shavuot is also one of the three pilgrimage feasts when all Jewish males were required to appear before the Lord in Jerusalem.

Jewish Traditions

  • There are many Jewish traditions associated with Pentecost.
  • The reading of the Book of Ruth as it is a harvest time story – King David was born and died on this festival and Ruth took on the burden of the Law.
  • Many religious Jews commemorate Shavuot by spending the entire night studying Torah at their synagogue or at home.
  • Chanting the Ten Commandments.

The Messianic Fulfillment of the Festival

Now if Passover was fulfilled in the death of the Lamb of God and unleavened bread in his sinless character and His resurrection the fulfillment of First Fruit then we must ask ourselves – how was the of day Pentecost fulfilled by the first coming of Jesus?

It is no coincidence that God selected this Jewish festival as the day when he would send his Holy Spirit.  In Acts, chapter 2 we see this festival fulfilled in some remarkable ways. To understand why God would choose to pour out His Spirit on the day of Pentecost – we must rehearse the relationship between all the Spring Festivals.

  • Passover – redemption – death of Christ
  • First Fruits – first results – Resurrection (1 Cor. 15:23)
  • Pentecost – Fruition – Birth of the Church

In Acts, chapter 2 God fulfills this festival in some remarkable ways.

The Promise

The 120 Disciples (Acts 1:15), were in one place, in one mind, praying and focusing on God’s work. They were waiting in obedience to the command of Jesus (Acts 1:4-5) and also in obedience to the Laws of Shavuot regarding “no work’ – Lev. 23:21.  Many were pilgrims who had left their homes in other places to be part of this Festival. God would bless their obedience now in a powerful way – some of those waiting were pilgrims as Pentecost was one of the three Festivals where Jewish people were commanded to go “up to Jerusalem’ to worship.

God would bless their obedience.

And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. 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 24:45-49)

And further, before His ascension to the right hand of the Father He says to His disciples,

… He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”(Acts 1:4-5)

Signs and Wonders

After some days of patient waiting – the presence and power of the Holy Spirit fell upon the disciples on the 50th day after Passover.  It was a new revelation given on a new Pentecost!  The initial giving of the Torah by Moses at Mt. Sinai had come with signs and wonders in the heaven as seen in Exodus 19.

Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.

Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice. (Ex. 19:16-19)

There were now signs and wonders in the Upper Room marking this new Pentecost as well.  It was the birthday of a new revelation and the fulfillment of God’s promises to pour out His Spirit in the last days! (Joel 2)

Hearing the Good News in their Own Language

The Tradition of All Israel Being Present at Sinai

According to our Sages, every Jew who would ever live was at Mount Sinai, pledging their obedience to the Law.  According to Jewish tradition this was not limited to the Jews alive at this time.  The Rabbis believed in the pre-existence of the soul and that every Jew who would ever live – was at Mount Sinai – with or without a body! The rational for this is that every Jewish person at that moment agreed to keep the Torah.  The verse used to teach this is,

Ex. 24:7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said,  “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.”

In light of this, it makes sense that there was also a Jewish tradition that every Jew present at Mount Sinai that day actually heard the giving of the Law in their own native tongue – after all how could they obey what they did not understand.

The fulfillment on the day of this new Pentecost, which took place 50 days after Jesus the Lamb of God died for our sins, is obvious.  There were signs and wonders, just like at Mount Sinai and those who heard the disciples preaching heard this new revelation in their own native tongue.  Can you imagine what it would have been like to be present at this new Pentecost?  It would have been amazing especially as the Jewish people realized that the new had come with the power of the old!

How gracious of God to use a tradition of man to communicate His truth to the Jewish people.  God Himself is our role model for missionary service and evangelism.   He seeks to communicate with us in ways we can understand…He could prove His point otherwise, but He deigns to prove Himself in ways that we humans can understand…as our ability to understand spiritual truth is so limited.  Perhaps the best example of this is the Son of God Himself, who took on flesh in order to communicate with you and me…to show us His love and to help us better understand the Father through His role model and example.  We too need to incarnate the Good News in ways that our families, friends and neighbors understand …through love, helping in practical ways and doing whatever it takes to help those we pray for understand that God is not far away, He is close and He loves them.

Happy Shevout/Pentecost and may the Lord fill you with the presence and power of His presence. 

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