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Bible verses about Pentecost
(From Forerunner Commentary)

As we study the meaning of God's holy days, a logical pattern surfaces that unlocks truths that remain a mystery to the vast majority of the world's people. The day of Pentecost symbolizes a major key to spiritual understanding because upon this day God sent His Holy Spirit to His church, providing Christ's disciples with the power, love, and understanding to carry out the work of the church. This regeneration by the Holy Spirit, the key to understanding the spiritual principles of God's Word, opens our understanding of the plan that God is working out among humanity.

God established His holy days around the two major harvests of the year, a small one in the spring and a larger one in the fall. These harvest seasons typify two spiritual harvests. Pentecost, occurring in late spring, symbolizes the first spiritual harvest and reveals that this is not the only day of salvation. Those whom God calls now are merely a "pilot group" that He has specifically selected to be His "firstfruits." This day is also the anniversary of God's church—the beginning of the portion of God's master plan in which He calls people out of this evil world to create in them His holy, perfect, spiritual character.

Staff
Holy Days: Pentecost


 

Exodus 6:2-8

God says He is going to do all this, which has a direct connection to why we eat unleavened bread. "I, I, I, I"—all uttered by God about what He will do. But the Israelites did not agree because the persecution that they had received just prior to this had put fear into them. So what does God have to do?

He could have thrown up His hands, but He said He would do these things. He had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to bring Israel into the Promised Land. Since God does not go back on His word, He decided to do it anyway, even though they do not agree. So God, in His mercy, began to work in a way to bring them into agreement with what He wanted to do. He did not give up, even though they were resisting Him stoutly at this time.

God had set His mind. Do we think God has made His mind up to save us? We had better believe He has! Nobody can resist Him! He will save us! But He will not save us until we come to the place where we really know that we did not do it. As hard as we might think it is, the part that we have to do—so tiny in comparison to what God does—He gave us the power to do! That is what Pentecost is about.

We have to come to understand that God is our Savior. All we have to do is cooperate! When we cooperate with His will, it works! His way of life works, and what He is creating in us will be created. As we see here, Israel dragged its heels, just as we do from time to time, resisting Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unleavened Bread and Pentecost


 

Exodus 23:14-16

The "three times" are three general periods during which God's holy days fall. Passover and Unleavened Bread occur in early spring, the "Feast of Harvest" in late spring, and the "Feast of Ingathering" in the fall.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Holy Days: Pentecost


 

Leviticus 23:1-3

This opening shot reveals two very important principles to begin our quest to find out how to keep the holy days.

The first, repeated twice in one verse, is that these festivals are God's feasts, not Israel's, not the church's. He is their Source, He set the times, He gave them meaning, and He is their ultimate Object. We could say they are all about Him—and His plan and our part in it with Him. Our observance of these days is to focus on Him and His teaching, and with that comes wonderful spiritual and physical benefits.

The second principle appears in the command to "proclaim [them] to be holy convocations." These divinely appointed times are set apart for calling together. In today's language, a primary purpose of the feasts of God is to bring God's people together, not just for fellowship, but also for instruction and most importantly, to honor and worship God Himself. These holy times, then, contain a vitally important corporate aspect, producing unity in purpose, doctrine, and relationships within the Body of Christ.

The next verse, Leviticus 23:3, presents a third important principle: "Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings." Along with the weekly Sabbath, the seven annual holy days—the first and last days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Hag Hamatzot), Pentecost (Shavuot, also called the Feast of Weeks or the Feast of Harvest), the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur, also called the Fast), the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Succoth), and the eighth day (often called the Last Great Day)—are also Sabbaths.

Like Sabbaths, they are holy convocations, as can be seen in the ensuing instructions. In most cases, the wording is that the holy day "is a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it" (see Leviticus 23:7-8, 21, 24-25, 35-36). This means that we are not to attend to our normal, weekday work—the kinds of activities that we do on the other six days of the week. This includes not only our paying jobs, but also the ordinary work that we would do around the house, on our cars, in our yards, at the local community center, etc.

In the instructions for keeping the Feast of Unleavened Bread, though, God stipulates, "No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat—that only may be prepared by you" (Exodus 12:16). Feasting is part of the holy day experience. God wants us to eat and drink of the abundance that He has bestowed upon us in thanksgiving and joy on His appointed times, so He allows us to prepare food on the holy days. Even so, it is still better to prepare as much of the food beforehand, as on a weekly Sabbath, to get the most from the feasts.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How Do We Keep God's Festivals?


 

Leviticus 23:10-16

Following the basic instructions about Pentecost's location on the calendar in Leviticus 23:10-16, we find that when Israel came into Canaan, they were to count beginning with the day following a Sabbath. Without further instruction, there could be a whole year's worth of Sabbaths to choose from! However, within Leviticus 23, the annual Sabbaths are arranged chronologically beginning with Nisan (also called Abib). This, combined with information obtained from other portions of the Bible, has led all concerned to conclude that the Sabbath in question is early in the year, located near the beginning of a spring harvest, and is one of three within the Days of Unleavened Bread. The church of God and the various sects of the Jews are in agreement on this.

The count is to continue fifty days with the fiftieth day being the Day of Pentecost. As a Greek word, the name Pentecost does not appear in the Old Testament, only in the New, and it means "fiftieth." In the Old Testament, Pentecost is called "the Feast of Weeks" or "the Feast of Firstfruits."

Carefully note that God points only to a Sabbath—it must first be found—in order to begin the count. This fits nicely within God's directive in Exodus 31:13 that the Sabbath is a sign between Him and His people. Day One of the count does not begin with a Sabbath, but with the day following it. However, without first isolating which Sabbath, one cannot know which "morrow"—which day after. If one does not use the correct Sabbath, it may set Pentecost's observance as much as seven days off God's intended target.

The Sabbath in question here can be neither the First nor the Last Day of Unleavened Bread, though both are annual Sabbaths. Why? Because using either of those holy days, both of which fall on fixed dates, effectively eliminates a person's need to count! This is because, when one begins counting fifty days from a fixed date, one will always end on a fixed date.

If we begin to count with the day following Nisan 15 (the First Day of Unleavened Bread), we will always end on Sivan 6. If we commence our count on the day following Nisan 21 (the Last Day of Unleavened Bread), we will always finish on Sivan 12. If God wanted us to observe Pentecost on a fixed date, He would have told us so, even as He did with all the other festival dates in Leviticus 23.

One man suggested that counting from a fixed date is still counting. Yes, that is true. But if one does that, the count only has to be done once in all of history, and Pentecost's location is found forever. The man's suggestion is similar to interpreting that the command to eat unleavened bread during the Days of Unleavened Bread no longer applies because the Israelites did it when they first came out of Egypt! Even as unleavened bread must be eaten each year, the clear implication from Leviticus 23 is that God wants us to count to Pentecost afresh each year.

God wants us to count to Pentecost year-by-year beginning with the day following a Sabbath whose date changes from year to year. This can only be the weekly Sabbath that falls on or between the two holy days during the Days of Unleavened Bread. The starting point has been located. Even though the count does not actually begin with the Sabbath, the Sabbath's location is of primary importance, not the day after. The day after would never be located without first locating the correct Sabbath.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost, Consistency, and Honesty


 

Leviticus 23:10-16

Less than 13% of the time in the last century, Passover has fallen on a weekly Sabbath. The conclusion reached by some church of God groups on when to begin the count destroys unity on this issue. A weekly Sabbath Passover causes the next day, a Sunday, to be the First Day of Unleavened Bread and thus a holy day Sabbath. The practice of beginning the count to Pentecost on this day began in 1974 in the Worldwide Church of God and has been continued by several groups following Herbert Armstrong's death.

However, a number of things are wrong with the conclusion to begin counting with this day.

First, we are warned in Deuteronomy 12:32 and Revelation 22:18 neither to add nor to take away anything from God's Word. There is no command or example anywhere in Scripture that the sheaf must be waved during the Days of Unleavened Bread. Instead, the implication of Leviticus 23 is that the weekly Sabbath's location within the Days of Unleavened Bread is of primary importance, as the instructions in verses 10-11, 15-16 show.

Second, Passover, though it falls on a weekly Sabbath occasionally, never qualifies as a weekly Sabbath within the Days of Unleavened Bread. Leviticus 23:5-6 clearly states that "on the fourteenth day of the first month . . . is the Lord's Passover," and "on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread." That Passover and Unleavened Bread are adjacent to each other is patently true, but they are separate festivals with distinctly different teaching. Passover teaches us of the death of our Savior to cover our sins. The Days of Unleavened Bread instruct us to come out of sin, to overcome and grow from the trials of daily life.

Passover is not part of the Days of Unleavened Bread, and therefore the Sabbath it infrequently falls on does not qualify as a weekly Sabbath within the Days of Unleavened Bread. To use it so is inconsistent with the counting pattern used in the other 87% of years. Furthermore, Wavesheaf Day is directly attached to Pentecost?the former begins the count, the latter concludes it. In addition, both days involve harvest symbolism. Wavesheaf Day is only indirectly attached to the Days of Unleavened Bread due to the count often beginning within them.

Third, no one has ever found a record in all of history of the Jews?whether Sadducees, Pharisees, Falashas, Kairites, or Essenes?observing Wavesheaf Day on anything but a common workday. All these groups began their count following a Sabbath, but none of them ever permitted Wavesheaf Day to be observed on any type of Sabbath. This is because they could see that Scripture clearly states the Wavesheaf Day falls the day after a Sabbath, not on one.

John 20:1, 11-18 absolutely proves that Wavesheaf Day follows the day after the weekly Sabbath that falls within the Days of Unleavened Bread. Jesus, as the first of the firstfruits, is the reality of the symbolism of the Old Covenant Wavesheaf Day ceremonies. He was crucified on a Wednesday Passover and was interred as the sun set that day. He spent exactly three days and three nights buried in the tomb, being resurrected as the sun set ending the weekly Sabbath. Then, on Sunday morning, He rose to heaven for acceptance as the first of God's spiritual harvest.

Seeing their conclusion is weak, those who want to place Wavesheaf Day on the day following a Sabbath Passover have devised a cunning argument for beginning the count with the First Day of Unleavened Bread: Since Jesus, the first of the firstfruits, was "waved" for acceptance before the Father following His resurrection within the Days of Unleavened Bread, they conclude that every Wavesheaf Day thereafter should be conformed to it. But consider this: Does every Passover have to be observed on a Wednesday because Jesus was crucified in a year when Passover fell on a Wednesday? We do not do that, do we? Wavesheaf Day and the beginning of the count to Pentecost are, like all other festivals and their ceremonies, to fall on the dates and days assigned them by God in Leviticus 23 (see verse 2) and in the calendar rules.

There is no consistency to their argument and practice, but those who believe this reasoning are so insistent that at least one group declared Passover to be a Day of Unleavened Bread, despite Leviticus 23:4-6 showing they are two different festivals.

No statement in the Bible says that Wavesheaf Day must fall within the Days of Unleavened Bread. Instead, God uses a weekly Sabbath falling within Unleavened Bread as His marker, and the following day begins the count. Thus, the day the count begins?a Sunday?can fall outside the Days of Unleavened Bread in about 13% of years.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost, Consistency, and Honesty


 

Leviticus 23:11

If we do not accept the fact that the Sabbath mentioned in Leviticus 23:11, 15 is the weekly Sabbath within the Days of Unleavened Bread, we are left without a consistent defining point from which to begin the count. Only these two verses in the Old Testament show when to wave the sheaf. Why not any other Sabbath, either holy day or weekly? John 20:1, 17 absolutely confirm that Jesus was "waved" on the Sunday following the weekly Sabbath within the Days of Unleavened Bread. When Passover falls on the weekly Sabbath, the only Sabbath within the Days of Unleavened Bread is also the last day of Unleavened Bread. When Passover falls on the weekly Sabbath, should we throw out the rule used to calculate Pentecost for all other years? Pentecost is always calculated from the weekly Sabbath within the Days of Unleavened Bread.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001


 

Leviticus 23:15-16

This late spring holy day must be counted. God instructs us to count 50 days from the day that the wavesheaf was offered. This explains why this day is commonly called Pentecost, which means "count fifty." The Sabbath (verse 15), the day after which we start to count, is not an annual holy day, but the weekly Sabbath that falls during Unleavened Bread. We know this because Pentecost must be counted every year. If this Sabbath were an annual Sabbath, Pentecost would always fall on a fixed date. It always falls on the same day of the week—the first day, Sunday—because one begins to count on a Sunday.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Holy Days: Pentecost


 

Leviticus 23:15-16

Pentecost is unique among the holy days because it is the only annual feast determined by counting. All the other festivals God commands us to keep on certain dates on the Hebrew calendar, but we must count for Pentecost. Whether we count fifty days or seven weeks or seven Sabbaths from the day of the wavesheaf offering, we must still go through the exercise of measuring the time to keep the feast properly. Why?

God does nothing without a purpose, and His purposes always include giving His people additional instruction for their ultimately eternal benefit. Counting to Pentecost is no exception. Even a cursory examination will expose several fascinating avenues of study.

First, God commands us to count. Counting is a means of calculating sequential items, events, and measurements. The Bible equates counting to numbering and measuring, and it becomes a metaphor for judging and evaluating. When we understand what the period from the wavesheaf offering to Pentecost represents, the extended meanings come into play.

Passover symbolizes our redemption from this world and the forgiveness of our sins. Unleavened Bread typifies our lifelong task of coming out of sin and putting on the new man in sincerity and truth. We begin to count on wavesheaf day, which occurs during this period, and the fifty days extend to Pentecost, a festival that prefigures the harvest of God's firstfruits. The fifty days, then, represent the period of a Christian's conversion, the time between his calling and his resurrection to eternal life.

Thus, God wants us to count, number, or measure the time of our conversion. This should bring several well-known verses to mind. For instance, Paul considers us wise if we are "redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16). He cautions the Romans, "And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed" (Romans 13:11). In both instances, he is advising Christians to measure and make use of our time carefully.

A few Old Testament verses may be even more on point. David writes in Psalm 39:4, "LORD, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am." If we understand just how short our time is, we also realize how weak and insignificant we are next to God and eternity. It forces us to rely upon Him and strive to improve. This is the kind of attitude that God desires in us and will enhance our growth in character.

Moses, too, makes use of this imagery in Psalm 90:12: "So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Properly evaluating our lifetimes builds wisdom in us, and wisdom—the godly use of knowledge and understanding—will make our behavior pleasing to God. Wisdom will help us to prioritize our time properly so we can devote ourselves to what is truly important.

Second, God has us count fifty days. What is significant about the number fifty? Fifty is the round number of years human beings live in a normal adult life (compare Numbers 1:3; Psalm 90:10). Fifty years, then, represents the period during which we live, grow, overcome, bear fruit, and prove our devotion to God through trials, tests, blessings, curses, and life's other varied experiences. Fifty years corresponds to the span of our conversion.

Biblically, the number fifty has its closest association with two things: the Tabernacle/Temple (in some of its measurements) and the Jubilee. The apostles describe God's church as a temple, and Christians are individual "living stones" within it (I Corinthians 3:9, 16-17; Ephesians 2:19-22; I Peter 2:5). The fifty days thus symbolize the time it takes to complete the work of building a habitation for God.

Every fiftieth year in ancient Israel, the Jubilee was decreed on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 25:8-9), which, among other things, represents unity, being at one, with God. The Jubilee was a year of liberty, when all debts were cancelled and inheritances reverted to their original families (verse 10), foreshadowing "the restoration of all things" (Acts 3:21). It was also a year of rest (Leviticus 25:11), when no crops were sown or reaped, a foretaste of God's rest (Hebrews 4:4-10). Under this type, the fiftieth day of the count, Pentecost, represents the harvest of Christians into God's Kingdom by the resurrection.

Overall, then, we count to Pentecost for two major reasons:

1. God commands it, and
2. It teaches us to realize and use carefully the ever-shrinking time we have to come "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).

In His wisdom, God has us annually take stock of our procession through time so that we will devote ourselves to making the most of it. In doing so, we can gauge our progress toward God's Kingdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Wavesheaf Offering


 

Leviticus 23:15

This verse teaches how to count Pentecost, but it also reveals who should count Pentecost. Who is the “you” in verse 15? In verse 6, “you” is the person who is to eat unleavened bread. This “you,” then, is each one of us. The addition of “for yourselves” makes it even more emphatic that we are to do the counting. It is not done by a calendar, not by the ministry, but “for yourselves.”

Just as the ministry does not eat unleavened bread for us because God commands “you” to eat it, it follows that they are not to count Pentecost for us either. We eat unleavened bread every year, so we should also be counting Pentecost for ourselves every year. “You” and “for yourselves” are not in and of themselves significant words, but here they become significant because God said them.

Does this counting seem to be a small thing? Yes, it does seem inconsequential. But we are to live by every word that God gives to us, not just those we consider important. The name “Laodicea” originates from two Greek words: laos meaning “people” and dike meaning “to judge” or “to decide.” For a Laodicean, they, the people, take it upon themselves to decide what is important instead of submitting to whatever God says.

Why would God have each of us count Pentecost in place of looking at a calendar—the way most of us have always determined which day to observe? Each of us counting every year when calendars are easily available does not seem to make much sense. But that is irrelevant. What is relevant is that we do what God commands us to do, to be careful to obey all He commands.

Consider an experience Herbert W. Armstrong recounted in the May 1981 Good News article entitled, “Why Many Don't Understand Pentecost”:

I had learned in my intensive, almost night-and-day study of the Sabbath question that we are commanded also to keep the seven annual Holy Days.

I DID NOT KNOW WHY! I knew only that God said, “DO IT!” My wife and I did—alone! For seven years!

We have his good example to do whatever God tells us to do and trust that God, who loves us, has a reason for what He commands, even if we are clueless as to why. Herbert Armstrong was one who followed all those admonitions in Deuteronomy to be careful to obey whatever he saw commanded by God, even if it meant changing years of error he adamantly taught. Do we follow that example, or are we Laodiceans deciding for ourselves rather than counting for ourselves as God specifically commands?

Pat Higgins
Every Word?


 

Deuteronomy 4:5-10

God chose ancient Israel out of all the nations of the earth and determined that they would be a holy nation. He ordained that they would be a people set apart from the rest of the world. The Old Covenant was intended not only to be a schoolmaster to teach Israel how to live in such a way that they would recognize the Messiah when He came (Galatians 3:24), but it was also intended to set Israel apart—to make them holy. In so doing, He intended the entire nation to be a witness of Him. This passage demonstrates this.

God proposed the Old Covenant to Israel on the day of Pentecost. Israel accepted the terms of the agreement and thereby signed up to be a light to the rest of the world. God had given them the most superior set of laws that mankind had ever encountered, which would leave the rest of the world in awe due to the beneficial effects that would come from it.

We know from the New Testament that the only problem with this covenant was the heart of the people entering into it (Hebrews 3:10-12; 8:7-8). The God-given terms of the agreement were absolutely perfect for what He wanted to accomplish. One of His main purposes was for Israel to be an example, a witness, to the rest of the world of the right way to live. Incidentally, the Tabernacle that Israel carried with them in the wilderness was even called "the Tabernacle of witness" (Numbers 17:7; Acts 7:44).

If Israel had been faithful to the covenant, they would have received blessings beyond belief. In the blessings portion of Deuteronomy 28, God was prepared to set Israel high above all the nations of the earth. Their cities and farms would be prosperous; their children would be healthy and strong; their herds and flocks would be numerous; they would have an abundance of food; and they would have protection from their enemies. They would have rain in due season, and everything they put their hands to would be blessed. They would have enough that they could lend to other nations and not borrow. God intended them to be a holy people whose behavior and prosperity would make it obvious to the rest of the world that God had set them apart. The effect would be so dramatic that Israel would be feared!

However, as we know, Israel failed. The accounts of the Old Testament prophets show the great lengths to which God went for Israel in cleaning her up and taking her under His wing. Yet, once she caught a glimpse of her God-given beauty and wealth, all she did was play the harlot with the surrounding nations, rather than being a witness to them (see Ezekiel 16).

Today, the United States is the richest nation on earth, which seems to coincide with God's promise of blessing until we realize that America is also the greatest debtor nation. Parts of the nation suffer drought, and other parts are practically floating away. Much of our food is either imported or grown from genetically mutated seed. Our cities are filthy, crowded, and corrupt, and our family farms are dying through environmental regulation and corporate buyouts. We live in abundance yet cannot afford our lifestyles, plunging further into personal debt. The nation's churches are pathetically weak, barely standing to fight the onslaught of secular culture—and, in fact, accepting much of it in a misguided spirit of tolerance. In short, America is the farthest thing from being a kingdom of priests or a holy nation. Our entertainment industry shows, like nothing else, what sort of "witness" we are making to the world.

Israel failed because her heart was not right. Biblically, the word "heart" is synonymous with "mind" and "spirit." We know that God desires that all Israel be saved (Romans 11:26; II Peter 3:9) and that in the future He will replace Israel's heart of stone by pouring out His Spirit (Ezekiel 36:26-27). However, for a few—known as the remnant, the church, the Body of Christ, spiritual Israel, the Israel of God, or the firstfruits—God decided to do this ahead of time.

He gave His Spirit on the Feast of the Firstfruits, the day of Pentecost, AD 31, so that a remnant of Israel would have a heart of flesh and not of stone. God gave His Spirit so that spiritual Israel could obey God both in the letter and in the intent of His law. In addition, just as He gave Israel His law so she would be a witness, God gave the church His Spirit so that Christ's disciples would be witnesses. By receiving a portion of the Spirit that proceeds from the divine Lawgiver, the firstfruits are able to understand the intent behind God's laws. More than this, by yielding to the promptings and motivations of God's Spirit, they can begin to take on His character and actively do good rather than merely avoid sin.

David C. Grabbe
The Pentecost Witness


 

Deuteronomy 7:6

That Israel was a holy nation is far more important than is generally realized, and it affects our understanding of wavesheaf requirements. As a prelude to better understanding and properly appreciating many aspects of waving the sheaf, it is helpful to know that God specifically designated Israel a sanctified people. He set the entire nation apart as distinctive from the rest of the world's nations. As such, He gave them responsibilities to perform before the rest of the world as a testimony of their obedient service to God.

God's declaration of certain things as "clean" and others as "unclean" helped to define this holiness to them. Some things declared unclean could not even be touched without making a person ceremonially defiled until he performed the prescribed rituals. Among the things declared polluted or unclean were the Gentiles, whose uncleanness was not inherent but lay in their idolatry: They did not worship the God of Creation who set the Israelites apart. As such, even a marriage between an Israelite and a Gentile was forbidden except within very narrow parameters.

The ceremonial aspects of the Israelites' responsibilities are quite detailed, and God expected them to be followed exactly as instructed because each detail fits precisely within His purposes for His relationship with His sanctified people. Are we wiser than He is? God is not the author of meaningless regulations. Waving the sheaf of grain is one of these ceremonial duties, containing explicit instructions with spiritual ramifications.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost Revisited (Part Two): Joshua 5


 

Deuteronomy 12:1-14

The WCG's Pentecost Study Paper refers to Deuteronomy 12 five times, each time only to reference certain words on how to count to Pentecost. Not even one time does it refer to what Deuteronomy 12 is actually saying in regard to a significant subject pertinent to Joshua 5:10-11.

Moses wrote Deuteronomy in the last months before Israel entered the Promised Land. The book is a prelude to renewing the covenant between God and Israel and what would immediately follow. As such, when Israel entered the Land, some of the worship patterns followed in the wilderness were to undergo a radical change.

Moses divided Deuteronomy into at least four sections. The first section serves to remind Israel of the many things God had done for Israel to bring them to where they were just about ready to inherit the land. The second section, beginning in chapter 12, contains instructions on the response God expected from the Israelites once they entered the land. It calls for a number of changes in their worship of Him.

In verses 1-4, He makes it abundantly clear that He would not tolerate even a shadow of syncretic mixing with the gods and religions of the people of the land. Regardless of location, every place where the Canaanites worshipped was to be utterly destroyed, and every idol of stone or wood smashed and/or burned to ashes. They were even to eradicate the names of those places!

The imagery is of God storming into the land as a conquering General who will brook no interference from the conquered people. He shows His disdain for everything they hold dear and important in their worship of the gods they admire and are devoted to. By doing so, He also shows the Israelites the weaknesses of Canaanite gods. They cannot protect the Canaanites.

Verse 5 begins to relate instructions for one of the more radical changes involved in Israel's worship of God. Once in the land, they would no longer be permitted to worship by erecting an altar and offering sacrifices at any place, except as God Himself appointed. No Israelite was free to choose for himself where worship could take place. God would be worshipped at His Tabernacle, His dwelling place in Israel, and it would be located and erected where He and He alone would choose. There and there only, on the Tabernacle's brazen altar—just outside His front door, as it were—would they be able to offer their sacrifices.

God had already given Israel a prelude to this. Once the Tabernacle was constructed in the wilderness, all religious and civil affairs revolved around the location where it was set up. Every time Israel camped in one place long enough to erect the Tabernacle, it became the center of their encampment, and each tribe was assigned its never-varying place in relation to the Tabernacle. All religious and civil affairs were thus conducted in His presence.

The context of Deuteronomy 12 makes it clear that, to God, there are two overriding issues behind these commands. The first is loyalty to Him only as God. The first commandment reads, "You shall have no other gods before Me," meaning "no other gods in place of Me." God will not brook sharing the relationship with Him with another "god" on any level of devotion. The second issue is the Israelites' unity with each other as a nation. Unlike other nations, Israel's national unity was not driven by political or military forces but by religion, the one God gave to them through Moses. This is why the central sanctuary is of supreme importance to them as a nation.

In the wilderness, the Israelites had already shown themselves to be easily attracted to heathen practices. They had also exhibited a strong, independent spirit that drove them to go their own way, to do their own thing, whether or not religion was directly involved. Once settled in the land, they would be scattered over an area far larger than any wilderness encampment. Their free moral agency was thus about to be severely tested. They needed a central sanctuary to retain their relationship with God and their unity as a nation.

The charges given to them in Deuteronomy 12 are strongly reinforced by the demand of verse 32: "Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it." If they were to remain the holy people of God, no deviations were allowed!

Beginning in verse 8, God strictly forbids them to do as they had done in the past, erecting altars virtually wherever they wished. They are to understand that they were no longer a wandering people but a nation anchored in the land, and their worship of God and actions as a nation must reflect that. Their days of transition in the wilderness from a slave to a free people, from a loosely scattered, blood-related people to a united nation, were over! Their real birth as a nation under God had begun.

Central to this idea is that all sacrificing, except for the Passover, had to be done on one national altar. The festivals, especially the three major ones, had to be kept in one central location, and all tithes were to be sent to that same central place of worship. This did not mean that they could not hold Sabbath services in their home locations, but any local services would have to be conducted without the sacrificing of animals or any of the rituals assigned to festivals, daily acts of worship like evening and morning sacrifices, and voluntary offerings that an Israelite felt compelled to give. This general prohibition against local sacrifices included the waving of the sheaf, which was always done at the Tabernacle/Temple within the "Passover season," which continued from Passover until Pentecost.

The Tabernacle was not erected until the land had rest from the warfare of conquering the Canaanites. This occurred as God appointed in Deuteronomy 12:9-11. The period of peace that satisfied God's requirements was not reached until seven years after the Israelites crossed over the Jordan. At that time, His choice of location for the Tabernacle and its altar was Shiloh: "Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of meeting there. And the land was subdued before them" (Joshua 18:1).

Does this mean that no sacrificing as part of the normal worship of God was done for seven years? Yes, but consider that, regarding the Joshua 5 circumcisions, Scripture says that no Israelite male born in the wilderness had been circumcised (Joshua 5:2-7). In fact, only two people alive at the time, Joshua and Caleb, had lawfully been able to partake of perhaps the most important of all rituals—Passover—for the entire forty years!

It also means that none of those uncircumcised males—probably a million or more men!—had been able to make the Old Covenant with God (Exodus 12:43-49). Seven years spent doing God's work of conquering the land was a drop in the bucket compared to other long-term works He had them do by His command. Even so, He would have that work done by a circumcised people. This is another case of God saying through His example, "First things first."

The concept of one central sanctuary and altar was so deeply and emotionally ingrained that Joshua 22 relates the history of a war that nearly erupted between the tribes on the east side of the Jordan River and those on the west. The western Israelites charged those in the east with building an altar, breaking God's commandment. Such an altar would compete with the sanctuary altar in Shiloh for the loyalty of the people. Building another altar would be a direct, rebellious act of idolatry against God, and it would destroy the unity of Israel as a nation under the God of Creation.

The west-side tribes were poised to launch a war against their eastern brethren until they heard the easterners' explanation. The "altar" was actually a monument, a memorial in the shape of an altar, raised to serve as a constant reminder of the east side's unity with their western relatives in common cause under the God of Israel. The memorial's shape was to remind them that their unity was in and through the God they worshipped.

Another altar, appearing briefly in Joshua 8:30, is also easily explained. It in no way conflicts with God's commands in Deuteronomy 12. Why? God Himself had commanded this particular altar to be erected as part of an important ceremony—a renewal of a covenant. The event in Joshua 8 has its beginning in Deuteronomy 11:26-32 where the ceremony is commanded. Immediately after, God begins His charge in Deuteronomy 12 concerning His expectations of the Israelites after they crossed into the land.

In Deuteronomy 29—30, which occurs while the Israelites were still outside the Promised Land but just about to enter into it, a special covenant is made between God and Israel. This covenant, with Moses presiding, served as a specific and immediate preparation for entering the Promised Land. Part of its purpose was surely motivational, highlighting the powerful, steadfast faithfulness of God.

In Joshua 8, with the conquest of the land just beginning, the tribes—in another solemn ceremony, this time presided over by Joshua—carry out God's command to repeat the renewal of the covenant within the land on Mounts Ebal and Gerizim. This one-time erection of an altar in no way conflicted with God's commands in Deuteronomy 12. It was not part of the normal worship of God. It was nonetheless an important reminder of their weighty responsibility to carry out God's work of conquering the land of their inheritance, and of His ever-present faithfulness in assisting them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost Revisited (Part Two): Joshua 5


 

Joshua 5:10-12

Some assume the events of Joshua 5:10-12 can only mean—by the eating of unleavened cakes and parched corn—"that Passover occurred on a weekly Sabbath and wavesheaf day was the first day of Unleavened Bread." However, nothing in the context directly states those assumptions, nor does it indicate anywhere that a wavesheaf offering or its accompanying burnt offering occurred either.

We may know the dates on which these events occurred, but they in no way reveal on which days of the week they fell. If Israel made a wavesheaf offering, when did they do it? It seems especially critical at this point, since it would have been the first time in the land. But Joshua says absolutely nothing about it.

We know that Passover observance begins at twilight when the lamb is slain, but the bulk of it is observed at night. We also know that twenty-four hours after Passover begins the Night to be Much Observed begins. The first day of Unleavened Bread begins with this observance at night. On the 15th, beginning with the keeping of the Night to be Much Observed, the people would be eating unleavened bread just as we do today because it is such a significant event in the history of God's people.

Where did the grain for making the unleavened bread and parched corn come from? It came from the grain of the land, exactly as the Scripture implies (Joshua 1:11). They could have used the old corn confiscated from the Canaanites' storage places or even harvested a sufficient amount from fields of grain left behind by Canaanites as they fled the Israelites. They had sufficient time to make such preparations. Joshua 5:11 says the Israelites ate unleavened bread and parched grain on the day after Passover. Day does not necessarily have to mean "daylight," but simply any portion of the next 24-hour day. The observance of the Night to be Much Observed is a very significant part of the day after Passover.

The Israelites rested on the holy day. They could eat manna as well as unleavened preparations. On the 16th, the next day, when they would normally have expected manna to appear, it did not. From this point, they were completely dependent upon the crops harvested from the land.

Why did Israel not make a wavesheaf offering? Because they could not lawfully do so for many reasons:

1. Because the 15th is a Sabbath, and Leviticus 23:11 clearly commands the wavesheaf offering to be made on the day following the Sabbath, not on the Sabbath.

2. Because, if the particular Sabbath that preceded the 15th was also Passover (as per the WCG scenario), it would not qualify to determine wavesheaf day since it is not part of the Days of Unleavened Bread.

3. Because they had absolutely no grain that qualified as an acceptable offering. The wavesheaf offering law states specifically that it had to be from seed that they had sown. Israel reaped what Canaanites had sown. Conquest did not change this fact. They could eat it but not offer it.

4. Because Deuteronomy 12 specifically forbids making the required animal sacrifice that accompanied the wavesheaf offering until the Tabernacle was established where God had placed His name. This did not occur until seven years had passed (compare Joshua 14:6-13 and Joshua 18:1).

5. Because Leviticus 22 strictly forbids an offering from the stranger's hand. It had to come from someone who had covenanted with God. A stranger is someone "unknown" to God, an outsider, or someone not in the family.

Israel never made a wavesheaf offering in Joshua 5.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001


 

Joshua 5:10-11

Joshua 5:10-11 cannot be used to justify changing from the normal Pentecost counting pattern used when Passover falls on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday.

Some, realizing their argument for always keeping Wavesheaf Day within the Days of Unleavened Bread is still quite weak, have leapt on another rationalization and conclusion from a series of assumptions read into Joshua 5:10-11. These assumptions have led them to the conclusion that, since Leviticus 23:14 states that the Israelites were not to eat bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain from their new spring harvest until they had brought their sheaf offering to God, and since Joshua 5:11 records that the Israelites ate of the produce of the land on the day after Passover, it means they must have made a wavesheaf offering.

However, major assumptions in their argument have led them to a wrong conclusion:

First Assumption: Joshua and the Israelites waved the sheaf following a harvest of Canaanite grain. This must be read into the context because this is nowhere stated. In fact, neither the words "wave," "waved," "waves" nor "wavesheaf" or "wave offering" appear in the entire book of Joshua. In addition, the context makes no mention of the burnt or meal offerings that were to accompany the waving of the sheaf (Leviticus 23:12-13). Finally, it does not mention the erection of an altar. This is no minor element because it would have been the first altar established after entering the Promised Land.

Second Assumption: This was a year Passover fell on a Sabbath. How do they know that? No one knows it! Nobody knows with absolute certainty what year Israel entered into the Promised Land, let alone the exact day this offering was supposedly made! They have no calendar date from which to offer proof. The argument is built on a series of "ifs" centered on the assumption that the Israelites were required to wave the sheaf before they could eat of the harvest of the land.

Third Assumption: Israel was required by God—forced by law—to make the wavesheaf offering before they could eat the grain from a Canaanite planting. This assumption is drawn from Leviticus 23:10, 14. Taken alone, these scriptures may lead one to think the wavesheaf had to be done immediately. However, where does God say that it had to be done immediately or that they could not eat of the produce of the land upon entering it? He says nothing of the sort as they approached the land. We will see that the Israelites not only did not have to make a wavesheaf offering of Canaanite grain before eating of the land's produce, but that they did not do so, and further, doing so would have been sin to them.

Fourth Assumption: God would accept an Israelite offering derived from crops they had not planted on their own land. Exodus 23:14-16 explicitly states that their offerings had to come from grain that the Israelites themselves had sown in the field. Any grains they would have harvested after entering the land would have come from what the Canaanites had sown. This makes all the difference in the world when we consider the spiritual significance of sowing and harvesting. Does God's Spirit produce the heathen—the unconverted—person's spiritual harvest?

II Samuel 24:24 shows that David clearly understood another principle involved here. The one making the offering must have done the labor and made the sacrifices necessary to produce the offering and render it acceptable to God. Offerings that cost the offerer nothing are not acceptable.

Where are the labor and sacrifice involved in Israel's supposed wavesheaf offering? Offering from Canaan's harvest was not acceptable for Israel to give because it cost them nothing. In short, God wants offered to Him what He has first given to us. When God loves us and we then return love to Him, it is acceptable because He first loved us (I John 4:19) and shed His Spirit abroad in our hearts (Romans 5:5). When we offer love to Him, it is His own love, providence, the fruit of His Spirit that we have labored to produce, returning to Him.

Fifth Assumption: God would accept an offering of polluted things. The context in Leviticus 22:19-25 specifically covers animal offerings, but the principle applies to grain offerings as well, as the explanation of the fourth assumption indicates. No animals with blemishes of explicit nature are permitted to be the food of God. In verse 25, God says that nothing from the foreigner's hand is acceptable "because their corruption is in them." God states, "They shall not be accepted on your behalf."

If one thinks this is of small consequence, then perhaps it would be good to review what happened to Nadab and Abihu, Aaron's sons, when they foolishly used coals from a profane or common fire as they made the offering on the incense altar. God did not think it insignificant when they offered fire He considered unfit for His altar. He struck them dead as a lesson to all those who are less concerned about purity of worship than they should be.

Israel was symbolically under the blood of Jesus Christ and had made the covenant with God. This rendered them a holy people consecrated for God's use and glorification. Because they were chosen by God and holy, their offerings, as long as they were without blemish and not from the stranger's hand, were acceptable to Him.

Israel had no acceptable harvest to offer in Joshua 5. In fact, under the circumstance, Israel was required by law not to make an offering!

Sixth Assumption: Israel was permitted to make an offering of any kind. This is a big one, reinforcing all the other objections against the common interpretation that Joshua 5:10-11 permits or demands a First Day of Unleavened Bread waving of the sheaf and beginning of the count.

In reality, upon entering the land, offerings involved in the worship of God were specifically forbidden by Him until certain things were first accomplished. Through Moses, God instructs in Deuteronomy 12:1, 5-14:

These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. . . . [Y]ou shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His habitation; and there you shall go. There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and flocks. And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the Lord your God has blessed you. You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes—for as yet you have not come to the rest and the inheritance which the Lord your God is giving you. But when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and when He gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety, then there will be the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to the Lord. And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion nor inheritance with you. Take heed to yourself that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every place that you see; but in the place which the Lord chooses, in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you. (emphasis added)

This instruction supersedes Leviticus 23 and Numbers 28-29—and especially for the purposes of this article, Leviticus 23:10, 14, where God commands, "When you come into the land. . . ." From those two verses, one could easily assume that the Israelites were to begin keeping those days and all their offerings immediately upon entering. However, Deuteronomy 12, written within the last month before entering the Promised Land, puts a hold on doing these things immediately upon entering the land (Deuteronomy 1:3). Deuteronomy 12 makes clear that they were not free to follow the Leviticus 23 instructions until certain matters were accomplished.

Deuteronomy 12 paves the way for Israel, at God's command, to establish a headquarters, a national, central place for the worship of the Lord God at the site of His choosing. Further, God adds that they were actually to be dwelling in the land, to be at rest, and to be dwelling in safety from their enemies. Also included within these instructions, though not specifically mentioned, is that the Tabernacle, the altar, the laver, and all the interior furniture had to be erected and in place.

Please pay special attention to what Moses says while the Israelites are still in the wilderness: "You shall not at all do as we are doing here today" (verse 8), referring to making offerings any old place that was convenient. In addition, Israel actually had to be living in the land, not marching around it fighting wars. They had to be in a settled circumstance—so settled that they were in safety. Obviously, this eliminates a wavesheaf offering and its accompanying burnt and meal offerings from happening in Joshua 5.

The place God ultimately chose and in which Israel erected the Tabernacle was Shiloh. This was not accomplished until Joshua 18:1: "Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of meeting there. And the land was subdued before them." This was the first sign that things were almost ready so they could legitimately offer sacrifices to God. However, some land had yet to be apportioned. The land for seven tribes plus the allocation of cities to the Levites and the cities of refuge had yet to be settled. The final apportioning is recorded in chapters 18-21. Thus, many of the tribes were not yet dwelling and at rest at the beginning of Joshua 18.

The official announcement that all was in place appears in Joshua 21:43-45:

So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. The Lord gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.

From the time they crossed the Jordan and entered the land, seven years passed before they were free to offer what Deuteronomy 12 forbade and what some claim occurred in Joshua 5.

Seventh Assumption: Joshua and the Israelites were so irresponsible as to disregard God's clear instruction given through Moses while they were still wandering. Does the Scripture anywhere speak badly of Joshua? In Joshua 1:6-9, God specifically seeks out Joshua to exhort him to be courageous, not turning to the right or left regarding what he had been instructed as Moses' right-hand man. That Joshua did just this is verified in Joshua 11:15: "As the Lord had commanded Moses His servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses." At the end of his life, he is as firm as ever (Joshua 23-24).

Joshua 22:25-30 provides a telling example of how deeply the command not to make any sacrifices except where God had placed His name was burned into all of Israel's heart at that time. When it was found that Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh, which had settled on the east side of Jordan, had erected what appeared to be a sacrificial altar, the remaining tribes almost entered into civil war to stop them! A fuller explanation revealed they had erected, not an altar, but a monument dedicated as evidence of the East Bank tribes' unity with God and the other tribes of Israel on the west side. They were not about to make offerings anywhere except where God commanded.

The Israelites did not make the wavesheaf offering when they came into the land.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost, Consistency, and Honesty


 

Joshua 5:10-11

Joshua 5:10-11 cannot be used to support using the First Day of Unleavened Bread to begin the count to Pentecost because:

1. No authority is given in Scripture to change the method of counting to Pentecost when Passover falls on the weekly Sabbath.

2. Counting to Pentecost always begins the day after the weekly Sabbath within the Days of Unleavened Bread. It is the weekly Sabbath, God's sign, not Wavesheaf Day that must fall within the Days of Unleavened Bread.

3. Exodus 23 explicitly requires the grain offering to be planted by the offerer, thus they had none to offer immediately after entering the land.

4. Leviticus 22 forbids making an offering of heathen substance, thus they had no acceptable grain offering.

5. Deuteronomy 12 forbids offerings until the Tabernacle, altar, laver, and all the Tabernacle's furniture were in place.

6. Deuteronomy 12 requires the Israelites to be settled in their inheritances and no longer involved in warfare before any sacrifices could be lawfully made.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost, Consistency, and Honesty


 

Matthew 4:12-17

It was in the Gentile area of Galilee—not in Jewish Jerusalem to the south—where Christ began His ministry of light. In Romans 11:11, Paul asserts that "salvation has come to the Gentiles." Peter, in citing Joel in his first sermon, understands the Gentiles to be spiritually "in the region and shadow of death," in deep darkness, with clouds obscuring their vision of God's salvation. He relates Joel to Pentecost because, on that day, God spread apart those clouds to allow the light of His salvation to reach the Gentiles, dispelling their gloom. What happened in Acts 2 gave the Gentiles the hope that they could build a relationship with the God of salvation. The hope of the Gentiles becomes the theme of the book of Acts, as seen, for example,

» in the preaching by Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8);

» in the work by Peter with Cornelius and his family (Acts 10); and

» in Paul's ministry to the Gentiles in every city he visited. God called Paul "to bear My name before Gentiles" (Acts 9:15). Chapters 11 through 28 of Acts relates how Paul did that.

Charles Whitaker
Peter's Trumpets Message—on Pentecost


 

Matthew 13:24-30

"End of the age" (verse 39) refers to the time of Christ's second coming and the resurrection of the dead when God will reap the firstfruits of His harvest! The fifty days between the wavesheaf offering and Pentecost symbolize the time from the founding of the church to the end of the age when the small harvest of the firstfruits occurs.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Holy Days: Pentecost


 

Luke 4:16

Regarding Pentecost, some feel that the Bible records Jesus keeping it with the Jews, apparently in agreement as to the proper day, in Luke 4:16. This is the Sabbath on which Jesus, in His hometown, formally states the purpose of His ministry.

Luke does not say it is Pentecost, just that it is a Sabbath He customarily kept. The evidence derives from what He read from the Scriptures. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, under the article "Triennial Cycle" (a three-year plan for the public reading of the Old Testament, attributed to Ezra), the portion of the Law to be read on Pentecost in the second year of the cycle (AD 28) is Exodus 20. The Pentecost reading from the Prophets is the very section Christ reads, Isaiah 61:1-2! A Jewish Quarterly Review article, "The Reading of the Law and Prophets in a Triennial Cycle," by Dr. Adolf Büchler (Vol. IV, October 1893, pp. 1-73) confirms this fact. Remember, His ministry was three-and-a-half years long. He was crucified in the spring of AD 31, so this Sabbath (possibly Pentecost) would have occurred shortly after He began His ministry.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001


 

John 14:15-18

This is a prophecy. When this was spoken, Jesus had not yet died, so He had not yet been resurrected and glorified. Thus, the Spirit was not yet given either. He shows another condition (in addition to the ones in John 7:37-39) for the giving of the Holy Spirit: "Keep My commandments."

Notice that the Spirit is described as being with and in. This clarifies the matter of coming to Christ. We have to be called and to respond. If we fail to do the latter, even though God's Spirit is "with" us—leading us to Christ—it will never be "in" us unless we respond and meet the conditions.

For the disciples at the time, the Spirit was with them—in Christ, teaching and guiding. However, a time was coming when it would be in them, literally. This did not occur until Pentecost, in Acts 2. So it is with us: The Spirit is with us before conversion, and it is by this means that God brings us to Christ.

If God did not do this miraculous work, the enmity against Him (Romans 8:7)—coupled with our spiritual confusion—would never permit the process of conversion even to start. Our calling is a tremendous act of mercy on God's part; it is a miracle that we even respond. If it were not for that—for God's mercy in choosing us to be called—we would never make it off the starting block. God has to work a tremendous miracle even to get us to be willing to come to Christ and begin to learn.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 12)


 

John 14:17

During Jesus' life on earth, the Holy Spirit was with the disciples. After the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost, the Spirit was within them as it had been in Christ. At this time, the disciples were born from above by the Holy Spirit, marking the beginning of the church of God.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Holy Days: Pentecost


 

John 20:22

When God, in Jesus Christ, wanted His disciples to understand what was going to happen on the day of Pentecost, He did not blow a dove out of His mouth—He breathed! This illustrates a great deal about whether the Holy Spirit is a personality or an inanimate thing. Wind is inanimate; it has no personality.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit


 

Acts 1:6

The scene is the ascension of Jesus Christ, after forty days of being with the disciples (verse 3). The day of Pentecost is just about to occur (Acts 2). It is interesting to note, in this profoundly significant time in the lives of the apostles, what was on their mind. Jesus said, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." They were seeking to know about the Kingdom of God and seeing it established immediately! We should not be unfamiliar with that kind of an attitude. If we are at all like them, we, too, would like to see God's Kingdom established right now.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Trumpets Is a Day of Hope


 

Acts 2:1

This was the Day of Pentecost exactly fifty days after Christ ascended to heaven to be accepted by the Father on the day the sheaf of grain was waved.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Holy Days: Pentecost


 

Acts 2:1

The Bible reveals no disagreement between Jesus or His apostles and the Jews about whether the festivals are to be kept. Indeed, the subject is approached assuming they will be kept. W.J. Conybeare and J.S. Howson confirm the early New Testament church kept them:

The festivals observed by the Apostolic Church were at first the same with those of the Jews; and the observance of these was continued, especially by the Christians of Jewish birth, for a considerable time. A higher and more spiritual meaning, however, was attached to their celebration. . . . (The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, p. 346)

Referring to the apostle Paul, they write, "Nay more, he himself observed the Jewish festivals" (p. 574).

The Bible plainly shows Jesus observing the Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day with the Jews in John 7. In John 11:55-57, the Jews standing in the Temple question whether He would come to the Feast, as though this would break a customary habit. Regarding Pentecost, some feel that the Bible records Jesus keeping it with the Jews, apparently in agreement as to the proper day, in Luke 4:16. This is the Sabbath on which Jesus, in His hometown, formally states the purpose of His ministry.

Luke does not say it is Pentecost, just that it is a Sabbath He customarily kept. The evidence derives from what He read from the Scriptures. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, under the article "Triennial Cycle" (a three-year plan for the public reading of the Old Testament, attributed to Ezra), the portion of the Law to be read on Pentecost in the second year of the cycle (AD 28) is Exodus 20. The Pentecost reading from the Prophets is the very section Christ reads, Isaiah 61:1-2! A Jewish Quarterly Review article, "The Reading of the Law and Prophets in a Triennial Cycle," by Dr. Adolf Büchler (Vol. IV, October 1893, pp. 1-73) confirms this fact. Remember, His ministry was three-and-a-half years long. He was crucified in the spring of AD 31, so this Sabbath (possibly Pentecost) would have occurred shortly after He began His ministry.

Stronger yet is the evidence from Acts 2 that the newly forming Christian church was sharing the day of Pentecost with the Jews in Jerusalem. Acts 2:1 states that this occurred on the day of Pentecost. Furthermore, verse 5 calls the Jews who witnessed the Pentecost occurrences "devout." The Christians and Jews are in the same general area for religious reasons.

In addition, verses 7-11 say that visitors had traveled from other areas, both Jews and proselytes. Here is a typical comment:

Certain "God-fearing Jews" who were residing in Jerusalem from many parts of the Diaspora, together with a number of Jews and proselytes who had returned to Jerusalem as pilgrims for the Pentecost festival, were "in bewilderment," "utterly amazed," and "perplexed" by the miraculous coming of the Spirit (vv. 6-7, 12). (Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 9, p. 272)

Where does this activity take place? No one can pinpoint with absolute certainty the exact location. The final verse of Luke records briefly what the apostles did after Jesus' ascension: "[They] were continually in the temple praising and blessing God" (Luke 24:53). We find them in Acts 1:13 in the "upper room" somewhere in Jerusalem. Acts 2:2 mentions them being in a house when the Pentecost miracles begin. The house and upper room are likely the same place and probably near the Temple where devout people would assemble, especially on a festival day.

Concerning Acts 2:6, Expositor's Bible Commentary says: "The verb for 'hear' (ekouon) is in the imperfect tense, suggesting that their hearing took place over a period of time—perhaps first in the upper room itself, then in adjacent lanes and courtyards, and finally in the temple precincts" (vol. 9, p. 272).

Acts 20:16 shows the apostle Paul "hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost." He apparently made it, for Conybeare and Howson conclude that the episode involving Paul and the four men under a vow (Acts 21:23-26) occurred on Pentecost (p. 574). Finally, Paul states before the Jewish leaders in Rome, "Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers . . ." (Acts 28:17). "Customs" includes festivals.

The internal evidence from the Bible and from religious researchers confirms that Jesus, the Christian church, and the Jews who were responsible for setting the festival dates agreed on when Pentecost and the other festivals should be observed (except the well-documented Passover difference).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001


 

Acts 2:2-11

The day of Pentecost is typically associated with stupendous signs and miracles. Acts 2 records that when the Holy Spirit was given, the display of ability and power astounded everyone present. There was a sound like a mighty rushing wind (verse 2). It appeared that fire rested on the apostles (verse 3), and when they spoke, every person present could hear what was being said in his own language, even his own dialect (verses 4-11).

Because of the brief description given in Acts 2, various religious denominations have sprung up which practice speaking in gibberish—which the disciples definitely were not doing—and being "slain in the Spirit," which is clearly not a biblical concept. These sincere but misled people focus on miracles and manifestations as "proof" that they have received the Holy Spirit. Every week they gather to "pray down" the Spirit—or at least a spirit—for their own use and gratification. The focus of their meetings is on the experience rather than on instruction, admonition, rebuke, or encouragement (see II Timothy 3:16).

Before this event in Acts, Jesus Himself explained to His disciples the importance of their receiving the Holy Spirit, as well as what signs would be shown as a result (Acts 1:4-9). The very last thing the resurrected Christ said before He ascended to the Father was, to paraphrase, "You will receive power when you receive the Holy Spirit, and this will enable you to be witnesses of Me." Through the giving of the Holy Spirit, Christ's disciples would have the necessary means to be lights to the world and to demonstrate a way to live that glorified God.

David C. Grabbe
The Pentecost Witness


 

Acts 2:2

It is interesting that Luke does not say that a wind actually blew. He writes that the sound of a mighty, rushing wind came. Whatever the case, it had a hurricane-like sound understood or perceived to be coming from heaven. It filled the whole house where they were sitting. Why does he mention them sitting? Why were they not standing around and fellowshipping with one another? In all probability the "house" mentioned here is actually the Temple. They were sitting because it was a holy day, and they were having a service.

It is also interesting to note that the sound filled only the house, not the whole city. Even if we allow that some of the sound was heard in the area around the house, Luke specifically contains the sound to the general area where the house was. We know that some outside (at least outside of the room the disciples were in) heard it, because they were attracted by the fact that the sound was emanating from the place where the disciples were sitting and having a meeting. So, these other people, a few thousand of them (Acts 2:41), began gathering in the general area, lending more credence to the probability that the "house" was the Temple.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost and the Holy Spirit


 

Acts 2:3

In addition to the wind-like sound, flames of fire appeared either to fall upon or to rise from those who were given God's Spirit. There is no indication that these flames appeared on anybody else except those who were in the house. God may have done this because fire had previously been associated with a form of baptism by John the Baptist (Luke 3:16). God used the fire to identify those who were receiving His Spirit at that time—a form of visible "sanctification" (being set apart). In any case, nothing like that occurs at "tarry meetings," nor does it occur when any today receive God's Holy Spirit. Neither did it occur when the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44-48). It was a one-time sign.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost and the Holy Spirit


 

Acts 2:4

Those in the house were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke with other languages. These were not unknown languages, but languages familiar to people in the area, as Acts 2:6 shows.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost and the Holy Spirit


 

Acts 2:6-11

Notice two things about the miracle of Pentecost: its nature and its participants.

The Miracle's Nature: The miracle temporarily "healed" the ailment God imposed at Babel. There, God divided the languages of mankind, inflicting on it an impediment to communication (see Genesis 11:1-9). Suddenly, relationships became much more difficult to establish and maintain. Mankind scattered.

Communication is a two-way street, involving a source and a receiver. These are what we call the speaker and the hearer, respectively. By changing speaker and hearer, the miracle brought source and receiver together, where normally they would remain distant. The disciples spoke languages in which they were untutored. Members of their audience heard the disciples "speak in his own language" (Acts 2:6). Communication took place.

As miracles go, this is a "strange" one. It did not involve healing the blind, deaf, or lame en masse; it did not involve the wholesale casting out of demons. Compared to the plagues God sent on Egypt or to Jesus' raising of Lazarus from the dead, the Pentecost miracle was not dramatic. Nevertheless, we will see that it was significant.

The Miracle's Participants: The miracle involved Jewish speakers of a substandard dialect and Gentile hearers from around the world. The disciples were Galileans. By virtue of the distance separating them from Jerusalem, Galileans spoke a different dialect of Aramaic than that spoken in Jerusalem. Like many dialects, theirs was what linguists call a "shibboleth," a term they get from Judges 12:6. A shibboleth is a speech pattern that identifies the speaker's background. In the disciples' case, it marked them to be what the Jerusalem leadership considered uneducated and low class. As an analogy, one could compare the Galilean dialect to "cockney" English—also a shibboleth. The dons of Oxbridge look down on those who are "unfortunate" enough to speak cockney. That is how the effete Jewish elite in Jerusalem reacted to the Galilean dialect. Everyone who heard the disciples knew they were from Galilee. Their audience was dumbfounded that these untutored fellows could fluently speak other languages.

Notice that they mention "Jews and proselytes." The cosmopolitan audience was not composed merely of Jews who had traveled from abroad for the holy day, but also of Gentiles converted to Judaism—that is, proselytes. Unlike typical Jews today, pre-Diaspora Jews (before AD 70) were dedicated missionaries. Christ Himself refers to their evangelistic zeal: "You travel land and sea to win one proselyte" (Matthew 23:15). Over the years, the Jews—like evangelicals today—had carried their religion everywhere. Paul preached the gospel in synagogue after synagogue throughout the Roman Empire. There were synagogues in the Parthian Empire as well; Peter, when he served God in Babylon, certainly frequented them. Judaism had reached the Far East by Christ's time and perhaps the distant West as well.

Pentecost's was a miracle of language. It showed Peter what Pentecost was all about: God had enabled communication between Himself and mankind. He had made it possible to build a relationship between God and man and between man and man. Even if human civilization had reached the end of its rope—suffering the judgment of God, as Joel apocalyptically describes it—"whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved" (Acts 2:21).

Most importantly, Peter understood that this new level of communication included the Gentiles. This is why Joel's words struck home to him on the Day of Pentecost. He knew that the word "whoever" included the Gentiles scattered about in the audience. He preached good news to them: They now had access to God's salvation.

Charles Whitaker
Peter's Trumpets Message—on Pentecost


 

Acts 2:14-21

It is interesting that Peter does not say that this was the fulfillment of what Joel prophesied. This is because much of Joel's prophecy was not yet fulfilled. It is easily seen that Peter understood this. He knew that it was only the beginning of the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy because God's Spirit was not being poured out on all flesh. The sun and moon had not changed their appearance, and not everybody that "called on the name of the Lord" was being saved. This is something similar to what happened when Jesus quoted Isaiah 61 in Luke 4, as He began His ministry in Nazareth. He left out parts of the prophecy. Likewise, Peter recognized that the events of Acts 2 only began to fulfill Joel's prophecy.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost and the Holy Spirit


 

Acts 2:14

Here, on the day of Pentecost, many people saw and heard what was happening, but who stands up and speaks? Apparently, all the apostles spoke at one time or another, but it is only Peter who is singled out in Scripture as the one who gave the keynote address.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 2): God's Pattern of Leadership


 

Acts 20:16

About 25 years after Christ's ascension into heaven, Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, hurried to be in Jerusalem in time for Pentecost! Just as the early church kept Pentecost every year, so the true church of God continues to keep it today as a continual reminder of our part in God's great master plan of salvation.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Holy Days: Pentecost


 

Galatians 3:15-17

Four hundred and thirty years after the covenant God made with Abraham the law came. We understand that it was already in existence, but it was given to Israel in a codified form as a portion of the covenant that God made with him.

The real beginning of the Old Testament church was not at Mt. Sinai but in the land of inheritance where Abraham pitched his tent 430 years earlier; the Old Testament church began with Abraham. And the New Testament church, in that sense, also began at the same time—because Abraham is the father of the faithful. This highlights how important Nisan 15 is.

We understand that the real, true beginning of the New Testament church was on the day of Pentecost—when God gave His Spirit. But these are the very roots of that event! By combining Exodus 12:40-41 with Genesis 17 and Galatians 3, we know that these two events, God's covenant with Abraham and Israel's exodus from Egypt, took place on the same date 430 years apart.

From that small beginning with Abraham and Sarah came Isaac and Rebecca and then Jacob and his wives and children. Joseph was sold as a slave into Egypt. Then the famine drove Jacob down into Egypt along with all of his relatives, where they grew into a sizable nation subjugated by the Egyptians. They became a nation of about 2½ million people. Then came the raising up of Moses and the destruction of Egypt culminating in the slaying of the firstborn on Nisan 14. And then the climax: The children of Israel leaving Egypt 430 years to the day that God entered into the covenant with Abraham!

On that very day, Abraham, Ishmael, and all the males of Abraham's household were circumcised, and thus they received the sign of the covenant. The covenant made at Mt. Sinai was essentially the same covenant as that entered into by God and Abraham but expanded to include the entire nation (that is, all the descendants of Abraham). Added to it, then, were civil and ceremonial laws necessary for administering the covenant to the whole nation. That makes Nisan 15 a very significant date.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Night to be Much Observed


 

Galatians 4:21

He is essentially asking, "Do you understand the instruction contained in the following episode drawn from Genesis?" Alternatively, "Do you comprehend what is in the law and its application to a New Covenant Christian?"

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part One): Introduction


 

Ephesians 1:13-14

Jesus and His Father give us a guarantee of His promise to marry us. On the Feast of Pentecost (Acts 2), fifty days after Jesus' resurrection, God sent a "deposit," the "earnest" of the Holy Spirit—the guarantee of the full payment to come later, when we are changed from flesh to spirit. There may be more here than some realize.

The Greek word for "earnest" is arrabon. When taken in the context of our understanding of a glorious wedding coming, it is a word packed with meaning. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words comments:

Originally, "earnest-money" deposited by the purchaser and forfeited if the purchase was not completed, [arrabon] was probably a Phoenician word, introduced into Greece. In general usage it came to denote "a pledge" or "earnest" of any sort; in the NT it is used only of that which is assured by God to believers; it is said of the Holy Spirit as the divine "pledge" of all their future blessedness, . . . particularly of their eternal inheritance.

Then comes this final sentence: "In modern Greek arrabona is an 'engagement ring.'" Of course! It makes so much sense. When Jesus asks us to drink of His cup—and we do—He follows by giving us a sign of His pledge: a kind of engagement ring, an earnest of His Holy Spirit! All this happened on the likely anniversary of God's proposal to Israel, the Day of Pentecost, about the time Boaz and Ruth pledged their troth.

Staff
Will You Marry Me? (Part Two)


 

James 1:18

Pentecost, the Feast of Firstfruits, represents the first part of God's spiritual harvest. God is now calling a small number of people, the firstfruits, into His church. These people, who live in the world but are not part of it (John 17:15-16), are training to be the leaders in the World Tomorrow when God will work to save the whole world.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Holy Days: Pentecost


 

Find more Bible verses about Pentecost:
Pentecost {Nave's}
 




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