A DAY OF BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS

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The central theme of the Feast of Weeks is beginnings. These beginnings have to do with  the start of events that radically alter the social, political  and religious  lives  of those whom God is directly dealing  with  in  conjunction with his plan for the salvation of humanity.

At Mount Sinai

Many  Biblical  Scholars and Jewish Historians believe  that  God gave  the law from Mount Sinai to the Israelites on the Feast  of Weeks.  Others  believe that the Feast of Weeks was the day on which  God  made, ratified, and sealed his covenant with Israel. There is also a belief that this was the day when the Israelite's Egyptian slavery  officially  ended.  Although there are no scriptures that directly support any of these claims, all of these beliefs would easily fit within the symbolic meaning of the Feast of Weeks.

In support of the above beliefs, Exodus 19:1 does say that Israel arrived at the foot of Mount Sinai on the 1st  day of the 3rd  month.  If  we assume that it took Moses one day to go  up  Mount Sinai, speak to God, and come back down (Ex.19:3-8), and we add the three  day wait for God to appear on  the  mountain (Ex.19:9-19) and one day for Moses and the priest to go back up the mountain and return, we have a total of five days. Thus, Moses would have returned from the mountain with the law of God on the 6th or 7th day of the third month.

Using  the shortest and longest lunar months,  the earliest the Feast of Weeks could have  occurred would have been the 7th  day of the 3rd  month and at the latest, the eleventh day. Therefore, using the most conservative or the  most liberal  calculations for determining the Feast of Weeks,  the feast could very well fit within this time period and there would have been  plenty of  time for God to have given the commandment and the law,  which the people had already agreed to keep (Ex.19:8).

An Ending and Beginning of Covenants

Whether  or not the law was given on the Feast of Weeks, as many believe, there is no doubt that 50 days after the Lift Offering of barley in  30 A.D., the original laws concerning how to be justified before God the Father were superseded by those of the  New Covenant.

One of the major prophecies concerning the Feast of Pentecost has to  do with the ending of the first covenant with national Israel and the  beginning  of the  New Covenant. In order to understand the significance of the ending of the first covenant, it is necessary to review the  major  events surrounding its making, its primary terms and conditions, and its prophetic symbolism in relation to the New Covenant.

The Covenant With National Israel

The following are a number of significant events surrounding the making of the first covenant with national Israel:

The Covenant Proposal

After God brought the People of Israel to his holy  mountain, he offered them a covenant through which they would reap  tremendous  benefits:

"Now  therefore,  if you will obey my voice indeed, and  keep  my covenant,  then you shall be a peculiar treasure to me above  all people:  for  all  the earth is mine: And you shall be  to me a kingdom  of  priests, and an holy nation. . . .  And all  the  people answered together, and said, All that the Lord has spoken we will do. . ." (Ex.19:5-8 KJV).

The Israelites  were to become God's treasure, his  priests and  his holy people. This offer of a national covenant with  the Creator  God had never before been made to any other people.  Not only were they to have God's blessings above all  other  people but also they  were  to represent God to the world  as  a  nation  of priests who were sacred to God.

"And  he [Moses],took the book of the covenant, and read  in  the audience  of  the people: and they said, All that the  Lord  has said  we will do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood,  and sprinkled  it on the people, and said,  Behold the blood  of  the covenant,  which the Lord has made with you concerning all  these words"  (Ex.24:7-8 KJV).

Here,  the  people formally agreed to do  anything God might  ask them  to  do, which also implies that they were willing to do God's will at that time and  in  the future. When God added  something to the covenant, the people would always  affirm that they agreed to what was added and that they would obey.

Terms and Conditions

1. God would give the Israelites his laws by which to live their lives.

2. The Israelites would obey whatever the Eternal asked them to do.

3. God would formally make the nation of Israel his people—his treasured possession.

4. Each Israelite would represent God's system of worship and  way of life to the world.

5. The people would be sacred (i.e., have a divine quality)

6. The agreement's continuation was predicated on the Israelite's continued obedience.

7. It was a blood covenant, which was ratified and sealed with the blood of an animal sacrifice.

The Covenant is Broken

The  covenant that God made with the people of Israel was a  wonderful  covenant because it could be kept by all of Israel. However,  it was  not kept and was repeatedly broken until  God severed his  covenant relationship with national Israel because of  their continual disobedience.

The Promise of a New Covenant

"Behold the days come, says the Lord, that I will cut a new  covenant  with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah,  not according  to the covenant that I cut with their fathers  in  the day  I took them by the hand to bring them out of  the  land  of Egypt—which covenant of mine they broke, although  I  was  a husband  to  them, says the Lord. But this shall be  the  covenant that  I  will  cut with the house of Israel:  After  those  days, declares the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and  I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and  they shall be my people" (Jer.31:31-33 Para.).

Those  whom God had made the original contract with are all  dead along  with millions of their descendants who died without a  new covenant.  The Israel of the original covenant is not a nation under the  rule of God today; her peoples are now scattered throughout  the earth.

"A  new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will  I  put within  you:  and I will take away the stony heart  out  of  your flesh,  and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will  put my spirit  within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them" (Ezk.36:26-27 KJV).

Although these prophecies in Jeremiah and Ezekiel are for National  Israel after the return of Christ, they also pertain  to  the elect of God (spiritual Israel) before Christ's return, according  to the writer of Hebrews:

"For  this  is the covenant that I will make with  the  house  of Israel  after those days, says the Lord; I will put my laws  in their minds, and write them in their hearts: and I will be a God to them, and they shall be a people  to me" (Heb.8:10 Para.).  See  chapters 8 and 9 of Hebrews.

The New Covenant

Remember  that the Law of God that was given at Mount Sinai  was written both on tables of stone and in a book. Moreover, in giving a  promise  of a New Covenant, the Creator God who became Jesus Christ foretold the time when  God the Father, through the  power of his spirit, would place his righteous law within the minds and hearts of those he chooses to be his sons:

"Forasmuch  as you are manifestly declared to be the  epistle  of Christ  ministered by us, written not with ink,   but   with  the spirit  of  the living God; not on tables of stone,  but  in the fleshly tables  of the heart"  (2.Cor.3:3 KJV).   See  Ex.24:12; 32:15; 34:1.

When  one  receives the holy spirit, the laws of God are  made  a part  of  one's very nature and being, which makes it possible  to  be continually  conscious of the difference between   righteous and unrighteous  concepts and behavior. Having these laws as  a  constant   part  of the consciousness alerts a child of  God  to  the right spiritual path that should be followed as they experience life with its various trials and temptations.

The Day of Sabbaths

There  are  a number of very important events noted  in  the  New Testament that happened on the Day of Pentecost, which would have gone unnoticed, if it were not  for the specific use  of the phrase "on the day of the Sabbaths." The word used  in  this phrase  is shabbaton, which is not a Greek word; it is  the Hebrew word that is used to describe an annual festival day.

Besides the word itself, there are two others clues which  reveal that  it is the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) which is being  spoken of in the texts where this phrase "on the day of the Sabbaths" is used:

1. The   writer specificity uses the plural  of  'shabbaton'  to indicate  that   the day is a culmination of a  number  of  weekly cycles.  This  plural use clearly separates this  day   from  the observance of the weekly Sabbath.

2. The  context  of the texts concerns the  beginning  and ending  of a significant event in the plan of God for the  salvation of humanity.

Now let us review a number of important events from the following list that occurred on the Day of Pentecost:

Did Jesus' Formal Ministry Begins on Pentecost?

"And  he came to Nazareth, where he was brought up. And  he  went in,  as  was his custom, on the day of Sabbaths, into  the  synagogue,  and stood up to read . . . He found the place where it  was written: The spirit of the Lord is upon  me; therefore he anointed me  to preach the gospel to the poor, he has sent  me to heal  the brokenhearted,  to preach deliverance to captives, and new  sight to the blind; to send away crushed ones in deliverance; to preach an acceptable year of the Lord" (Lk.4:16-19 Para.).

This event seems to be the formal announcement  of the beginning of Christ's  ministry and the beginning of the  end of the high priest's function within the sacrificial system as the bridge builder and intercessor between God and man.

Note:

Although the phrase 'on the day of Sabbaths' seems to indicate that this day may have also been the Feast of Weeks, there are no scriptures to support this assumption; however, it is a possibility considering how the sacred calendar is structured and the Calendar Court's authority to administer it.

The Ministry of Paul

Acts 16:6-10,13 Paraphrased

"When Paul, Timothy, and others decided to go from Galatia  toward Asia,  being  forbidden by the spirit to go  any  further,  they  decided  to go north into Bithynia, the spirit again forbid  them to go in that direction. Traveling on they arrived at  the  port city of Troas. While in Toras, Paul received a vision that instructed him to  go to  Macedonia; therefore, he and the small band of people  with  him immediately  departed  for Macedonia" (vs.6-10).

Arriving  in Philipi, they  stayed a few days, but apparently they did not try  to  evangelize the population until the day of Pentecost:

"And on the day of the Sabbaths [the Day of Pentecost], we  went outside  the  city  beside a river, where it  was  customary  for prayers to be made" (v13).

Beside the river, they began to preach to the women and they met  a woman named Lydia whom God called to  salvation along with the rest of her household.

The  significance of this event is that this Day  of  Pentecost was the beginning of Paul's effort to preach the gospel to Europe—a  new beginning. It is interesting that, in his letter to  the Philippians, Paul specifically calls this event "the beginning  of the gospel" (Phil.4:15). See also 2.Cor.2:12.

In  his letter to those at Corinth, Paul says that he remained  at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door had been opened  to him  to declare the Gospel:

"For  I will not see you now by the way; but I trust to  tarry  a while with you,  if the Lord permit. But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost.  For a great door and effectual is opened to me, and there are many adversaries" (1.Cor.16-7-9 KJV).

In this passage, there is yet another reference made by Paul  about Pentecost.  Why did Paul want to wait at Ephesus until Pentecost? First, Paul was accustomed to keeping Pentecost. Moreover, since he was about to  embark on an evangelical campaign; therefore, perhaps he wanted to observe this Feast Day with  the elect of God at Ephesus to  seek  their counsel and support. Whatever the reason was for Paul wanting to stay at Ephesus until Pentecost, the fact remains that this  particular  Pentecost marked the ending of one phase of Paul's  work  and the  beginning  of another even greater work.

Paul also formally began his ministry to the area  of Galatia  in the city of Antioch-Pisidia on the Day of  Pentecost. See Acts 13:13:15.

The Early Church

"For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend  the time in Asia: therefore he hurried so that if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost" (Acts 20:16 Para.).

Paul was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem for  Pentecost.  Why?   To  understand  why he wanted to be there  at  this particular  time,  we  must  analyze the  passage  more  closely.  Notice  the words 'to' and 'be'.  If we take these words at  face value,  this verse would seem to say that Paul just wanted to be there on Pentecost. But, this is not the case at all. The Greek word that is translated into two separate English words 'to' and 'be' can also be translated 'celebrate' (The New Testament according to the Eastern texts by George M. Lamsa).   With the correct word inserted  into Acts 20:16,  it is easy to understand why Paul was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem. The fact is, Paul wanted to be in Jerusalem to celebrate the Day of Pentecost—a day that is an annual festival day commanded by God to be observed.

The Temple, 66 A.D.

The  Jewish  historian Josephus  recorded several  dramatic witnesses  and events that concerned the temple  worship system at Jerusalem (War, Book 6. ch.5.). Some of these witnesses and events foretold the end of the temple worship system at Jerusalem, and other events that are recorded show the events that brought it to an end. The following are just four of the witnesses and events recorded by Josephus:

The Jews failed to heed this warning that began 3  years  earlier,  on  the Day of Pentecost. It is said  that  just before the Roman's final siege of Jerusalem that this light, which appeared over the Mount of Olives, disappeared into the heavens.

If indeed the nation of Israel began its covenant relationship on the  day of Pentecost at the foot of Mount Sinai, it ended this relationship on  the day of Pentecost in 66 A. D..

HISTORICAL EVIDENCE OF PENTECOST OBSERVANCE

In his book Christian Feasts And Customs, a Catholic writer Frances Weiser writes,  "Pentecost was held annually from a  very early date . . . Pentecost must have  naturally suggested  itself as a complementary festival (to the  Passover), commemorating  the fulfillment and fruit of  Christ's redemptive task and of His resurrection . . ." (p.248).

The oldest secular writings we have  concerning the celebration of Pentecost,  outside of the  New Testament  is  from the 2nd century  (100-200  A.D.).   The Catholic Encyclopedia states,   "The first mention of a Christian Pentecost  is found in the 'epistola Apostolorum' of the mid  2nd century. . ." ('Pentecost,' Vol. 11, p. 109).

In the 3rd century, Origenes and Tertullian spoke of  Pentecost  as a GREAT feast––the latter mentioned it  as  a well-established Christian feast. Bishop  Eusebius  (339 A.D.) called it "all blessed and  all holy, the feast of feasts."  In his sermons on  the Feast of Pentecost, John Chrysostom (407 A.D.) used phrases such as the following:

"Today  we have arrived at the peak of all blessings." "We  have reached the capital of feasts." "We have obtained the very  fruit of our Lord's promise." History shows  that  the festival day of Pentecost was always observed by the early Christians (Weiser, p.248).

SUMMARY

The Feast of Pentecost contains many meanings; therefore,  it is no accident that tremendous events have and will transpire  on this  day.  This day truly pictures many beginnings  and  endings that are extremely important to the plan and purpose of God  for humanity.

Although most of the symbolic meanings and prophetic  events of this day have been fulfilled, there are still three major events that must come to pass as an integral part of this  day prior to the return of Christ to establish the Kingdom of God upon the earth:

Spiritual Power

The  great power that the early church was given on the  Day  of Pentecost  in 30 A.D. will be given to God's  people again.  Only this  time,  the power that is given will be unlimited in  order  for  the great work that began on Pentecost 30 A.D. to be completed.  The giving of this spirit-power will mark the beginning of the end of human rule on earth. See Joel 2:29-32; Hab.1:1-5; Acts 13:40-41; Jn.14:12-14; Rev.3:7-10.

The First Resurrection

The  resurrection of the righteous dead who have  been  justified  and  saved  from  eternal death through the  sacrifice  of  Jesus Christ will happen on a Pentecost.

The Transformation

The transformation of all righteous individuals (both the  resurrected  and  the living) into immortal beings as a  part  of  the Family and Kingdom of God will likely occur on a Pentecost.

All of the above events will complete the symbolic and  prophetic meanings and events of the Feast of Pentecost and will begin a new era for humanity under the rule of the righteous Kingdom of God.