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GOD'S PLAN OF SALVATION FOR MANKIND


Chapter 3


FEAST OF PENTECOST


The third holy day is called the Feast of Pentecost and comes during late spring, May-June every year in our modern calendars.   

This festival is known by several names, based on its meaning, and the calculation of the time at which it is celebrated. It is called the Feast of Harvest in Exodus 23:16. It represents the firstfruits as described in Numbers 28:26.  

It is also called the Feast of Weeks in Exodus 34:22: “22 And you shall observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest…” The name ‘Feast of Weeks’ comes from the seven weeks plus one day (50 days in all) that are counted to determine when to celebrate this festival, as described in Leviticus 23:16: “16 Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall you number fifty days; and you shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord.”

Similarly, in the New Testament, which was written in Greek, this festival is known as Pentecost (Pentekostos in the original), which means "fiftieth" (Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, "Pentecost").

Jesus Christ: the Firstfruits of eternal life

To understand the significance of this festival, let us look at the specific instructions concerning this feast in Leviticus 23, the chapter that summarizes all the holy days. Verses 9-11 state: “9 And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, 10 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When you be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: 11 And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.”

Firstfruits are the first agricultural products to mature and ripen. Israel observed the day of Pentecost in the late spring after the barley and wheat harvests. A special offering of the first ripe grain, the very first of the firstfruits called the wave-sheaf offering was offered during the Days of Unleavened Bread, which marked the beginning of these harvests. The harvests continued during the next 50 days and led up to Pentecost (Leviticus 23:11). The Israelites were not allowed to harvest any of the early grain crop until this day of offering of the wave sheaf.     

This wave sheaf offering during the Days of Unleavened Bread represented Jesus Christ, who was the "firstborn from the dead" as Colossians 1:18 states. So one of the first harvest lessons of the New Testament is that Jesus Christ "is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep," as stated in 1 Corinthians 15:20. He presented Himself to God the Father as a type or example of firstfruits on the Sunday after His resurrection, on the same day during the Days of Unleavened Bread on which the first sheaf of grain of the spring harvest was waved before God. We can read this account in John 20:1. Jesus Christ thus was the very first human being to be actually born of God, the first of the firstfruits of the harvest of souls.

While the Passover ceremony of ancient Israel of sacrificing lambs was a prophecy of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the wave sheaf offering ceremony during the Feast of Unleavened Bread was a prophecy of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.   

The Church as Firstfruits

Now let us continue further with the instructions concerning Pentecost in Leviticus 23:15-17: “15 And you shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: 16 Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall you number fifty days; and you shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord. 17 You shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the Lord.”

These instructions make it clear that as the wave sheaf represented the first of the firstfruits, the wave loaves represented the firstfruits.

The wave sheaf was offered on the regular Sabbath during the seven Days of Unleavened Bread, and waved before God on the following day. Starting to count from the offering of the wave sheaf on the Sabbath day, with that Sunday as day number one, we will always come out on another Sunday as the fiftieth day for keeping the Pentecost.

On the fiftieth day, the day of Pentecost in Old Testament times, two “wave loaves” were brought out of the habitations of the congregation as the firstfruits unto the Lord. This means the two loaves made with leaven, a type of sin, symbolized people being taken out of sinful humanity as the firstfruits to God. 

Romans 8:29 speaks of Jesus Christ as "the firstborn of many brethren." Paul the apostle referred to the brethren in God’s Church as those "who have the firstfruits of the Spirit" (Romans 8:23). In speaking of God the Father, James the apostle said, "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). So, the firstfruits represented by the two wave loaves made with leaven is God’s New Testament Church.

Just as the wave sheaf was lifted up into the air and waved, symbolizing Christ’s trip to heaven on His resurrection and return, the wave loaves were also lifted up and waved, symbolizing that we too of the New testament Church shall for a moment leave this solid earth when we ascend to meet Jesus Christ in the air, before we return with Him to stand on the Mount of Olives as He begins His millennial rule. This is described in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17: “. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

Incidentally, these verses don’t describe the popular mainstream Christianity’s idea of a rapture of Christians rising to meet Jesus Christ to then be protected in heaven for some years while earth is experiencing catastrophic events, but describe saints resurrected as immortal spirit beings as described in 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 to immediately come back to earth with Jesus Christ as He descends to the Mount of Olives as described in Zechariah 14:4 and reign with Him for a 1,000 years.

Great Significance of Feast

Few people understand that God is following a systematic plan, symbolized by and revealed in His seven annual Holy Days, to save all humanity by offering eternal life in His Kingdom. At the present time in the history of the world we are simply at the beginning of the harvest of humans for the Kingdom of God.

The apostle Paul understood that there is a time order in which different people are saved at different times. He said in 1 Corinthians 15:20, 22-23: "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.”   

Strange as it may seem to millions in “mainstream” Christianity who have been taught that God is trying to “save” the world now, the true God of the Bible is trying to do no such thing! If that were true, then billions of human beings who have lived for thousands of years in India, China, Africa and elsewhere would have been “called” to Christianity. But the vast majority of them lived and died never even hearing the name of Jesus Christ!  

So the Feast of Pentecost or “firstfruits” reminds us year by year that God is not trying to save all of humanity at this time. The important lesson and understanding is that this life, in the first 6,000 years of man’s history is not the only time for salvation. All those who have died without even hearing the name of Jesus Christ have not perished. They will all receive their chance for salvation in a future resurrection. God is calling only a few, the firstfruits now, and that a FAR LARGER harvest of souls will occur later as pictured by God’s other holy days. Our Creator, therefore, controls the timing of His harvest.  

God’s kingdom begins the very smallest, with just one Man, Jesus Christ, being resurrected to eternal life during the first 6,000 years, as pictured by the wave sheaf ceremony during the Days of Unleavened Bread. Then at the end of the 6,000 years at the return of Jesus Christ to earth, those few who were called during the 6,000 years of man’s history and have qualified to receive eternal life, will be resurrected to eternal life. They too will rise from earth to meet Jesus Christ in the air, before descending with Him to earth. In the rituals of the Pentecost, this was pictured by the waving of the two wave loaves.   

Actually, by calling only a relatively few people during the first 6,000 years of man’s history into His New Testament Church, God is preparing “His Holy Nation” that is now bringing forth, and will in God’s kingdom bring forth the fruits of a righteous nation. Peter in 1 Peter 2:9 states: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” God’s Church and holy nation after being born as God’s literal sons in the resurrection at the return of Jesus Christ will then rule righteously over all nations of the world during the 1000 years of God’s kingdom.

God stresses the importance of His law by having one feast day, the Pentecost, in one of the three seasons centered on the giving of the law and giving us the power of the holy spirit to keep it. The importance of the Laws is actually stressed in all three holy day seasons. In the early spring holy day season the Feast of Unleavened Bread in which we put leaven, a type of sin, out of our homes teaches us to put all sin in thoughts attitudes and actions out of our lives. In the autumn holy day season, the importance of the Law is stressed on the Day of Atonement which pictures the putting away of Satan, the author of sin. Sin is the transgression of God’s Law (1 John 3:4). 

Founding of Physical and Spiritual Israel

To stress the importance of the Law, God memorialized it by revealing the Law, the Ten Commandments, on Mount Sinai around Pentecost. Since this Feast would be celebrated every year, Israelites were to remember this important event, giving of the Law, the Ten Commandments, in their history. 

A very important physical aspect of nationhood is the constitution, for a new nation must have a constitution with which to be governed. For Israel that constitution was the Law unveiled on Mount Sinai. Thus, the Law, which included the Ten Commandments, the statutes and judgments given through Moses in the first five books of the Bible, was given around the day of Pentecost and the ancient nation of Israel was founded on that day.

Not only was the physical nation of Israel formally founded on Pentecost, God’s “Own Nation” of the New Testament, His Church, was also founded on the very day of Pentecost on June 17, 31 AD. On this day, God’s holy spirit was first given to a large group of people to constitute His Church.   

So, Pentecost doesn't just picture the giving of the law; it also shows—through a great miracle that occurred on the first Pentecost in the early Church—how to keep the spiritual intent of God's law, possible only with the help of God’s holy spirit. God’s Law cannot be kept with full intent in the letter and the spirit, without the help of God’s holy spirit.

The Gift of Pentecost: the Holy Spirit

Acts 2:1-4 describe how God’s holy spirit was poured out on 120 disciples on the first Pentecost after Jesus Christ's resurrection: "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."

Peter then explained in Acts 2:38-39 how any one could receive God’s holy spirit: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."

God used the miraculous events of the day of Pentecost and Peter's sermon to add 3,000 people to His Church, who were all baptized and received the Holy Spirit (verses 40-41). The day of Pentecost is thus an annual reminder that God established His Church on this day by pouring out His holy spirit. Before the day of Pentecost in 31 A.D., God’s holy spirit was available only to a very few people, the prophets, in the Old Testament. But from this first Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection, God's Spirit has been made available to all who truly repent and are properly baptized.  

Why we Need God's Spirit

The question is, why did human beings need God’s Holy Spirit? The reason is that, no matter how hard we try not to, we still sin, in thoughts or actions. At the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem when King Solomon prayed, he said in 1 Kings 8:46: “46… there is no man that sins not…” Romans 3:23 also says: “23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Knowing how weak flesh and blood human beings are, God bemoaned in Deuteronomy 5:29, "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 explains that humans needed a transformation of the heart. Ezekiel the prophet described this change of the heart in Ezekiel 11:19: “19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: 20 That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”

Ezekiel here shows that to enable human beings to keep His laws, statutes and ordinances, God will give them a new spirit, His holy spirit, which will transform their stony heart into a heart of flesh.

By merely knowing the law human beings do not automatically begin to think like God. God knows that another ingredient, His holy spirit, is needed to impart humans the ability to fully comprehend the spiritual intent of His law and become godly in their thoughts, attitudes and actions. Without God’s Holy Spirit it is impossible for human beings to keep God’s law perfectly, and violations of the law automatically bring pain and suffering.

Prophet Jeremiah describes the change of the heart that giving of the Holy Spirit brings to humanity in Jeremiah 31:31-33: “31 Behold, the days come, says the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, says the Lord: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

God's Holy Spirit leads people into God’s way of thinking which produces peace, happiness and genuine outgoing concern for others. When human beings sin, God’s Holy Spirit leads them to genuine repentance, so that they will do their utmost to avoid sinning in the future. God can then forgive their iniquity. 

Keeping the law is keeping the commandments of God, which can be summarized by the word love. When a lawyer asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus agreed with how the lawyer read the law when he quoted: "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). The lawyer quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, from two of the 5 books of Moses. Jesus thus confirmed that the Old Testament scriptures are based on these two great principles of love. Matthew 22:37-40 records it this way: “37 Jesus said unto him, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

The first four of the Ten Commandments teach us how to love God and the last six teach us how to love all humans as ourselves.

Paul also confirmed in Romans 13:8-10 how the law is to be comprehended: “8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For this, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 10 Love works no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” 

God gave His commandments because He loves humanity. John explained in 1 John 5:2-3: "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.”

What fruits should keeping the law with the power of the Holy Spirit produce in human beings? Paul in Galatians 5:19-23 contrasts the fruits of the flesh with the fruits of the holy spirit. Without God’s holy spirit, fruits of the flesh dominate in human beings. These are stated in Galatians 5:19-21: “19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

But with God’s holy spirit God’s Church produces the fruits of the holy spirit in members’ lives, which are stated in Galatians 5:22-23: “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”  

Jesus told His disciples in John 13:34-35: "A new commandment I give to you, 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." Because they would have God's Spirit residing in them after the day of Pentecost in 31 AD, they would be able to fully express genuine love by producing the fruits of the holy spirit. That is why we as Christians need God’s Holy Spirit.

What is the Holy Spirit? 

To fully grasp how God's Spirit can work with us, we must comprehend what the Holy Spirit is. It is not a person who, along with God the Father and Christ the Son, forms a "Holy Trinity” as false Christianity believes. What then is the Holy Spirit? In the Bible the Holy Spirit is described as the power of God at work in our lives. In Acts 1:8 Jesus told the disciples: “8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Romans 15:13 states: “13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”   

In the Old Testament, Jewish scholars have never considered the holy spirit to be anything other than God’s power. For example, the following verse refers to the holy spirit as divine power. Micah 3:8: “But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord…” 

Even in the New Testament, the holy spirit is most often referred to as God’s divine power. For example, 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Here is what the angel Gabriel told Mary how Jesus would be supernaturally conceived in her womb (NKJV): "The Holy Spirit will come upon you…and the power of the Highest, will overshadow you" (Luke 1:35). Holy Spirit is described here as the power of God the Father.

The Anchor Bible Dictionary describes the holy spirit as the "manifestation of divine presence and power perceptible especially in prophetic inspiration" (Vol. 3, 1992, p. 260).

The Bible describes the holy spirit in ways that demonstrate that it is not a divine person. For example, it is referred to as a gift (Acts 10:45; 1 Timothy 4:14); it can be quenched (1 Thessalonians 5:19); it can be poured out (Acts 2:17, 33), and we can be filled with it (Acts 2:4; Ephesians 5:18). The holy spirit also renews us (Titus 3:5) and must be stirred up within us (2 Timothy 1:6). These are definitely not attributes of a person.

God the Father and Jesus Christ are compared to human beings in Their form and shape. In contrast, the holy spirit is represented, by various symbols and manifestations, in a completely different manner—such as wind (Acts 2:2), fire (verse 3), water (John 4:14; 7:37-39), oil (Psalm 45:7; compare Acts 10:38; Matthew 25:1-10), a dove (Matthew 3:16) and an "earnest," or down payment, on eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14, KJV).  

Matthew 1:20 provides further evidence that the holy spirit is not a person, but God's divine power. Here the angel Gabriel informs Joseph that Jesus was conceived by the holy spirit. However, Jesus continually prayed to and addressed God the Father as His Father and not the Holy Spirit (Matthew 10:32-33; 11:25-27; 12:50). He never represented the holy spirit as His Father. Clearly, the holy spirit was the agency or power through which the Father begot Jesus as His Son.

If God were a Trinity, certainly Paul would have thoroughly understood and taught this idea. But we find no such teaching in any portion of the New Testament he authored. Also, Paul's standard salutation in his letters to the churches, as well as individuals to whom he wrote, is "Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Nowhere in any of his greetings does he ever mention the holy spirit. The same is also true of Peter’s greetings in both his epistles. The holy spirit is always left out of these greetings, which simply does not make sense if it is a Being or entity coequal with God the Father and Christ. We can thus conclude that the holy spirit is God’s power and not a divine person.

Holy Spirit Will Enable Us to Become Perfect

To understand what the holy spirit can do for us, we need to remember that Jesus Christ was a human being just like any other human being, subject to the same pulls, passions and temptations like the rest of us. But it was an unlimited supply of God’s holy spirit that enabled Him to live His entire life without sin. John 3:34 tells us that “God did not give Him the spirit by measure.” In contrast we human beings who are converted receive only a small quantity of God’s holy spirit as an earnest or down payment at baptism and laying on of hands. This is stated in 2 Corinthians 1:22 and 5:5.  

Because Christians receive only a small quantity of the holy spirit as down payment from God, we still sometimes sin even after conversion. But earnest or down payment implies a much greater payment at some later stage. This means that when we are converted into eternal sons of God, with our powers multiplied perhaps trillions of times, we will also receive a fuller measure of God’s holy spirit. At present human beings are weak with limited brain capacity and memory.  As a result, we are not always able to keep in our minds and interpret all of God’s word perfectly and apply it in our lives in an instant to every situation. And because of our small physical strength, we can also be more easily manipulated by Satan and the demons to temptation. But as literal immortal sons of God, we will have incredible memories and abilities to process information. Then we will become capable of understanding and living by every word of God in the Bible. And a fuller measure of God’s holy spirit will enable us to overcome the pulls, passions and temptations we now experience in the flesh.

God wants us to become perfect, which means incapable of sinning. That is what God told Abraham in Genesis 17:1: “…I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be perfect.” In Matthew 5:48 Jesus commanded His disciples: “Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  

While in the flesh, we must demonstrate our willingness to become perfect by struggling against sin, with only a limited supply of God’s holy spirit. Those who demonstrate their sincere desire to do so, will qualify to receive eternal life as God’s immortal sons. All their powers will then be multiplied trillions of times, and they will also receive a fuller measure of God’s holy spirit. Now they will have the power to become what they demonstrated in their physical lives they wanted to become: perfect as God the Father and Jesus Christ are perfect, and incapable of sinning. They will have the ability to understand God’s law fully, the mental capacity to retain it all and be able to apply it to every situation they encounter. They too will become capable of living without sin. That is the significance of God’s holy spirit in enabling us to keep God’s law.

In summary then Pentecost teaches us that the first 6,000 years of man’s history is not the only time for salvation. Only a tiny few have been called to qualify for eternal life as the firstfruits during this time. Most of humanity will get its chance for eternal life when God’s kingdom begins on earth. Secondly, this feast focuses on the importance of God’s Law, the constitution by which individuals and nations should be governed. Only keeping the law will produce a peaceful, harmonious, just, happy, joyful society. The Law gave us the knowledge of sin. So giving of the Law on Pentecost also focuses our minds on sin and the need to avoid it. Thirdly, Pentecost focuses our minds on our all-important relationship with and dependence on God the Father and Jesus Christ. Without keeping the Law and forgiveness of our sins we cannot receive eternal life. But we cannot keep God’s law without God’s holy spirit. So we are totally dependent on God to supply us His holy spirit to enable us to keep the Law so that we can qualify to receive eternal life as a free gift.  

The true Church of God continued to observe Pentecost. If they had not been assembled on the day of Pentecost, the miraculous events of Acts 2 would not have taken place. Also 1 Corinthians 16:8 states, “8 But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost.” Pentecost is mentioned because the early Church was keeping it, with a ‘holy convocation’ meaning a Church service. God’s true Church does the same today. 

Another very important issue every individual must understand is to know if God is calling you at this time to become a part of His Church to do His work. How can you know if you are being called at this time or not? The answer simply is that if what God’s Church preaches about God’s plan of salvation and way of life for mankind appears logical and sensible to you, then God has opened your mind to understand His truth, and you are being called. Otherwise God will offer you your chance for salvation in His kingdom.

But God holds people accountable for the understanding He gives them. If people are being called, they must respond positively to God's call or they will lose their only chance for salvation.



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