The Feast of Weeks, which was also known as the Feast of Harvest of First-fruits (Ex.23:16), Day of Weeks (Lk.4:16, Acts 13:14; 16:13), and the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16) is the second annual festival of the year and occurs at the end of the wheat harvest:
"And the feast of harvest, the first-fruits of your labors, which you have sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when you have gathered in your labors out of the field" (Ex.23:16 KJV).
Ancient Israel was predominately an agricultural society, that had a spring harvest of grain and a fall harvest of fruit. The harvesting of grain in the spring always began with the barley harvest during the Feast of Unleavened Bread and ended with the much larger wheat harvest 50 days later:
"Celebrate the Feast of Weeks with the first-fruits of the Wheat harvest . . .. Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord, the God of Israel" (Ex.34:22-23 NIV).
This is the second annual festival season in which all Israelite males are commanded to go before God and present him with their offerings of gratitude in the place where he chose to place his name and presence.
Leviticus 23:15-20 Paraphrased
"And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day of your bringing of the omer of the Lift Offering, seven complete Sabbaths will be, until the day after the seventh Sabbath, you will count fifty days, and you will offer a new grain offering to the Eternal" (vs.15-16).
The Feast of Weeks is observed exactly fifty days from the day after the first weekly Sabbath that falls during the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
It is important to note that both the offering of the first-fruits of the barley harvest and the first of the wheat harvest have great prophetic significance. Both are symbolic of the New Creation (God's elect children) who are the first of their kind. And both are presented to God for his acceptance as something sacred to him. See Jer.2:3; Ezk.20:40; 48:14, and our study concerning the sons of the new creation.
The Offering of Leavened Bread
"From your dwelling places you will bring bread for a lift offering: [loaves] of two tenth deals [of an epah] of fine flour they will be: With leaven they will be baked: they are first fruits to the Eternal" (v17).
On the Feast of Weeks, there was to be an offering of two loaves of bread baked with leaven. This is the only offering that was presented to God with leaven. However, this leavened bread was only presented to God, it was not to be burnt on the altar.
These two leavened loaves were presented to God at about 9 a.m. for his acceptance. As with the Lift Offering, these loaves were presented in a lifting motion—extending the arms and hands upward in presentation to God who dwells in heaven. After the loaves were offered to God, they were given to the priests. See Lev.23:15-20.
"And you will offer along with the bread seven spotless lambs, each one year old, and one young bull, a son of the cattle, and two rams. They will be a whole burnt offering to the Eternal, and their grain offering and their drink offering: and offering, a pleasant scent to the Eternal" (v18).
"And you will offer one male goat for a purification offering, and two lambs, each one year old, for a fellowship sacrifice. And the priest will lift them, along with the bread of the first-fruits: a lift offering before the Eternal along with the two lambs. They will be holy to the Eternal [and] for the priest" (vs.19-20).
"And you will proclaim in this day, you will have a holy assembly. you will not do any work of labor. A perpetual statute in all your dwelling places for your generations" (v21). See also Num.28:26-31.
A Day of Remembrance
Deuteronomy 16:9-12 NIV
"Count seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. Then celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings of the Lord your God has given you" (vs.9-10).
"And rejoice before the Lord your God at the place he will chose as a dwelling for his Name––you, your sons and daughters, your maidservants, the Levites in your towns, and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows living among you" (v11).
"Remember that you were slaves in Egypt, and follow carefully these decrees" (v12). See also verses 16-17 and Deut.26:1-11.
As with the Days of Unleavened Bread, during the Feast of Weeks, the Israelites were to remember the slavery of Egypt and how and for what purpose God had delivered them from this slavery.
THE GRAIN HARVEST AND THE LIFT OFFERINGS
The grain harvest of Israel began with the cutting of barley for the Lift Offering during the Feast of Unleavened Bread and ended with the presentation of two leavened loaves of bread out of the wheat harvest, seven weeks later, on the Day of Pentecost.
The Barley Harvest
The Lift Offering that was offered from the barley harvest during the Days of Unleavened Bread is connected to the prophetic and symbolic meaning of the two loaves of leavened bread that were offered on the Feast of Weeks. The following are some of the prophetic and symbolic meanings of the Lift Offering:
The Fathers First-born
"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and became the first-fruits of them that slept" (1.Cor.15:20 KJV).
"Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation—for all things were created in him, the things in the heavens, and the things on the earth; the visible and the invisible; whether thrones, or lordships, or rulers, or authorities, all things have been created through him. And he is before all things, and all things consist in him. And he is the Head of the body, the church; who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that he be preeminent in all things" (Col.1:15-18 Para.). See also Acts 13:33-35; Rev.1:5 KJV.
"For to which of the angles did he say, You are my Son; today I have begotten You? And again I will be a Father to him, and he shall be a Son to me. And again when he brought the firstborn into the world, he said let the angles worship him" (Heb.1:5-6Para.). Quoted from Psa.2:7. See also Heb.5:5.
"And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached to the gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory" (1.Tim.3:16 KJV). See also Matt.3:16-18; Mk.1:9-11; Jn.3:1-10; Heb.1:1-6; 5:5.
Without a doubt, the first grain of the barley harvest that was presented to God as finely ground flour mixed with oil and incense was prophetic and symbolic of Jesus Christ who was the first of humanity to be accepted by God the Father as his son.
THE WHEAT HARVEST
Both barley and wheat are symbolic of something that is the first of its kind, which is presented to God for his acceptance as something that is sacred to him. See Jer.2:3; Ezk.20:40; 48:14.
Just as the first grain of the barley harvest was prophetic and symbolic of Jesus Christ as the first born of God, the first grain of the wheat harvest was prophetic and symbolic of all those who would obtain salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
The Prophetic and Symbolic Wheat
After speaking a parable about those who would receive the word of God and how they would react to it, Jesus speaks a parable about the wheat and the tares through which he reveals the symbolism of wheat:
"Another parable put he forth to them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said to him, Sir, did not you sow good seed in your field? from where then has it tares? He said to them, An enemy has done this. The servants said to him, Will you then that we go and gather them up? But he said, No; lest while you gather up the tares, you root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather you together first the tares, and bind them: but gather the wheat to my barn" (Matt.13:24-30 KJV).
This parable specifically pertains to the question of who will be in the Kingdom of Heaven and at what time they will enter into it. Notice that there are two distinct types of grain that were planted—wheat and tares. In verses 36-43, Jesus reveals the exact meaning of the symbols of the wheat and the tares to his disciples. The wheat are people who belong to God and the tares belong to the devil:
"Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came to him, saying, Declare to us the parable of the tares of the field. He answered and said to them, he that sows the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who has ears to hear, let him hear" (Matt.13:36-43 KJV).
In preparation for the ministry of Jesus, John the Baptist speaks of wheat as symbolic of those who would be the elect of God:
"John answered, saying to them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I comes, the latch of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the holy spirit and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable" (Lk.3:16-17 KJV).
Notice that the wheat is spared from destruction, whereas the chaff, which is useless as food, is destroyed with fire. The meaning of the wheat is inescapable; the wheat is symbolic of the elect of God.
During the Passover meal, Jesus warns Peter that Satan wanted to destroy him, but that he had asked his Father to give Peter the faith it would take to overcome evil:
"And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not: and when you are converted, strengthen your brethren" (Lk.22:31-32 KJV).
The important point here is that Jesus again uses wheat to symbolize someone whom God has called to salvation. While speaking of his impending death, Jesus uses wheat to symbolize his death and resurrection, which would bring a dramatic increase in the number of sons of God:
"And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone: but if it die, it brings forth much fruit" (Jn.12:23-24 KJV).
Jesus The Bread From Heaven
John 6:31-33; 48-58
"Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, he gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said to them, Verily, verily, I say to you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world" (vs.31-33 KJV).
The Creator God who became Jesus Christ gave the Israelites of the Exodus bread from heaven (manna) to help sustain their physical lives. While in human form this same being called himself the bread that was sent by the Father to give eternal life.
"I am that bread of Life. . . Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world . . . he that eats of this bread shall live forever" (vs.48-51, 58 Para.). See also Matt.26:6-13; Mk.14:3-9; Jn.12:1-7.
The Elect of God
The writings of the New Testament describe Jesus Christ as the bread of life, and those who are part of the body of Christ as bread:
"Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men; judge you what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body; for we are partakers of that one bread" (1.Cor.10:14-18 KJV).
Jesus was sinless (unleavened), and because the elect are also considered sinless by the Father and are of the body of Christ (the Bread of life), they are also symbolic of bread.
The Larger Harvest
The barley and wheat harvest of ancient Israel were symbolic of God the Father's first harvest of his spiritual children. The small first cutting of the barley harvest was symbolic of Jesus Christ, and the much larger wheat harvest was symbolic of those who would become sons of God through the sacrifice of Christ.
The Two Symbolic And Prophetic Loaves
On the Feast of Weeks there was to be an offering composed of two loaves of bread baked with leaven from the first grain of the summer wheat harvest. These two loaves were the only offerings that were to be presented to God with leaven. However, these loaves of leavened bread were only presented to God, they were not to be burnt on the altar.
Why would God instruct these two leavened loaves to be presented to him when the law of the offerings prohibited any leavening from being offered to God upon the altar?
There are a number of prophetic and symbolic meanings attached to these two loaves of wheat bread:
Just as the Lift Offering of barley represented Christ as the first fruits of the first grain harvest, these two leavened loaves represented the elect of God (i.e., the first-fruits of the harvest to the Lord). See Lev.23:17.
It is also worth mentioning that Jesus gave several parables which clearly show the first fruits of the grain harvest as symbolic of the spiritual harvest that he was sent to gather. See Matt.9:37-38; 13:19-30; Jn.4:35-37.
The Opportunity for Salvation
Before the Kingdom of God is established on earth, there are only two groups of people who will have been offered an opportunity for salvation:
1. Those who were called to salvation from the time of Adam to the advent of Christ.
2. Those who have been called to salvation after the advent of Christ under the New Covenant.
Each of these two groups of people comes under the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ and will be in the first resurrection. All others must wait until the resurrection of national Israel (Ezk.37) or the resurrection of the rest of the dead (Rev.20:5). See our study about the various resurrections:
"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order. Christ the first-fruits, Afterwards, they that are Christ's at his coming" (1.Cor.15:22-23 KJV). See also Matt.13:18-23; Jms.1:18; Rev.14:15-16; 20:4-6.
The Prophetic Numbers
The Number 3
The number 3 is one of the numbers that is used in scripture to symbolize divine perfection. The Feast of Weeks, which is observed in the third month of the sacred calendar, is also the third commanded assembly of the annual festivals and the third annual festival day on which no work is to be done.
The Feast of Weeks is also symbolic of the third step in the process of salvation after the Father leads one to Jesus Christ (i.e., repentance, baptism with water, and the transformation into a son of God through the power of the holy spirit).
When God moved the place where his name and presence were to reside, he documented this move with visible fire. He did this when he moved from Mount Sinai to the tabernacle, from the tabernacle to the temple Solomon built. He moved a third time on The Feast of Weeks in 30 A.D., from the temple that Herod built to his people of the New Covenant.
The Number 7
The number 7 is a number that signifies completeness, perfection, completion, and bringing to an end. The number 49, which is the product of 7x7, is the perfection of the number 7 and denotes the divine nature of completeness, perfection, completion, or bringing to an end.
The Lift Offering was 7 complete weeks or 49 days from the day on which Jesus Christ ascended to the Father as the first of his New Creation. This 49th day from the Lift Offering is symbolic of bringing an end to the first covenant with National Israel, which was formally discarded in 70 A.D. with the destruction of the temple.
The Number 50
The number 50 is the product of 5x10. The number 5 signifies the grace of God, and the number 10 signifies the law of God. It is through God's grace and law that humanity will find true freedom and happiness.
The Feast of Weeks is to be celebrated on the 50th day after the Lift Offering. This feast day also falls on the first day of another divine cycle of perfection; therefore, the Feast of Weeks marks an ending and a beginning—the ending of the first covenant with national Israel and the beginning of the New Covenant.
God's plan for the salvation of humanity through his grace and law, which leads to divine perfection and freedom, can be seen within the prophetic symbolism of these numbers associated with the Lift Offering and the Feast of Weeks,