Much of the Christian church observed, or at least acknowledged, Pentecost yesterday. Growing up in a liturgical church, I heard the term “Pentecost” quite a bit each spring, thanks to the important role this Feast plays in the Book of Acts. But I had only a fuzzy idea what it was about.
In fact, while things may be going up in flames all around us… like the rest of the Feasts, Pentecost gives us a stunning prophetic picture. Stick with me… 🙂 And look up! Our redemption is indeed at hand!
Pentecost is the Greek name for Shavuot, which is the fourth of the seven Feasts of the Lord (Divine Appointments, or moedim מוּאדם) decreed in the Law of Moses. This post continues my Divine Appointments: Insights from God’s Calendar series, which focuses on those Feasts of the Lord. I’ve also got a resource that summarizes the Feasts in a nutshell, if you’re interested:
The first three Feasts are tightly clustered, and were beautifully fulfilled in Yeshua’s sacrificial death and resurrection. The third Feast, the Feast of Firstfruits. was the feast on which Yeshua’s resurrection occurred. Shavuot / Pentecost comes fifty days after that.
This fourth feast, Shavuot, was one of the three pilgrim feasts, meaning that all Jewish males were required to present themselves in Jerusalem. Which explains why Jerusalem was filled with “devout men from every nation under heaven” in Acts 2:5, and why Paul was rushing to reach Jerusalem in time for the Feast in Acts 20:16.
In Torah, Shavuot was a harvest festival, where the firstfruits of the wheat harvest were presented in the Temple.
But wait… firstfruits? Didn’t the Feast of Firstfruits pass seven weeks ago, when we remembered Yeshua’s resurrection?
That’s a telling point. The Feast of Firstfruits celebrated the barley harvest. Shavuot celebrates the wheat. In fact the Hebrew spring and summer involved a procession of firstfruits (ביכורים—bikkurim) celebrations, which would go on until the “Feast of Ingathering” in the fall (Tabernacles).
“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Cor 15:20)
“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation [between the courts in the Temple], having abolished in His flesh the enmity… so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross….” (Eph 2:14-16)
To me, the emergence of Messianic Judaism and this “one new man” is one of the most exciting things God is doing in our day!
Fascinating… In Yeshua’s day, Herod’s Temple featured
Plan of Herod’s Temple (Dictionary of the Bible, 1909). Note the large Court of the Gentiles and the Women’s Gallery, which surrounds the court labeled A.
But in Ezekiel 40, God gave the prophet a vivid and detailed vision of the future Temple. And just as Paul says in Ephesians, Ezekiel saw no “wall of separation.” In Ezekiel’s vision, there are only two courts. An inner court, devoted to the work of the priests, and an outer court, where all worshippers will gather.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Gal 3:28-29)
Amen!! In fact, I think you could almost view Pentecost as a “One New Man Day.” But that’s a topic for a future post…
Getting back to our Savior and the firstfruits symbolism:
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep…. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. (1 Cor 15:20,23-24)
Do you see it? This is so exciting! Just like there’s an order to these presentations of firstfruits, there’s an order to the resurrections. Christ first, as symbolized in the waving of the (unleavened) sheaf and the sacrifice of the (unblemished) lamb at the third feast. Then His body, His true believers, as symbolized in the waving of the two leavened loaves at Shavuot!
Although I believe the rapture is most likely to occur on the Feast of Trumpets, some year very soon, this is one of the key reasons some scholars believe the Rapture will occur at Shavuot.
We’ve been put on alert in so many ways. Pestilence. Famine. Locusts. Earthquakes. Nations raging against Israel. Unrest everywhere. If you aren’t feeling the Matt 24:8 birth pangs, you need to pay attention.
But regarding this business of firstfruits, we’re not done…
The mitzvah of bikkurim (first fruits) began when a farmer in Israel (and some of the surrounding areas) would go out to his field and find budding fruit, and tie a reed around them, verbally declaring them “first fruits.”… Wealthy people would use trays of gold and silver, and simple folk would use baskets of grass and reeds…. Villagers of each region would gather [periodically] in a central town…. An ox with horns coated in gold would lead the procession, a crown of olive branches on its head…. A flute was played before the procession until it approached Jerusalem…. All of the artisans in Jerusalem would stand and greet them….
The seven species of ancient Israel. Barley, wheat, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, dates–all would be presented in the Temple as “bikkurim.” (Stamps from 1958)
And this is also exciting! If the waving of the first fruits of the barley harvest represents Christ’s resurrection, and the waving of the twin loaves at Shavuot represents our resurrection, whose resurrection do these first fruits of the other crops represent?
Check this out:
Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads…. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. (Rev 14:1,4)
These 144,000 Jewish tribulation saints have been marked, like the crops for the bikkurim observance, and stand in the heavenly Temple as firstfruits.
We see them twice. The first time, they are accompanied by the “great multitude” of tribulation saints “which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands…” (Rev 7:9).
The procession of firstfruits offerings ended prior to the Feast of Tabernacles, also called the Feast of Ingathering. At that point all of the harvest had been gathered in.
So look at this parallel. What happens in Revelation 14, pretty much immediately after we see the 144,000 for the second time, now standing on Mount Zion with the Lamb (Rev 14:1)? Answer: the “harvest of the earth” (Rev 14:16).
Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” (Rev 14:14-15)
To put it a little differently, after the 144,000 Jewish tribulation saints appear as “firstfruits” with the Lamb in the heavenly Temple on Mount Zion, the Ingathering begins. So here’s the picture:
So in addition to commemorating the day the Holy Spirit was given,
…looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ… (Titus 2:13) For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. (1 Thes 4:15-17)
This episode with marking and separating the righteous prior to the harvest recalls another tragic passage in scripture. In Ezekiel 8, the prophet is given a vision of men and women, even the very “elders of the house of Israel,” given over to idolatry. The Lord declared His people had “filled the land with violence” (חָמָ֗ס–hamas)–the same words used in Genesis 6:11 before the flood. What happened next in Ezekiel’s vision?
Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub, where it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And He called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer’s inkhorn at his side; and the Lord said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.” To the others He said in my hearing, “Go after him through the city and kill; do not let your eye spare, nor have any pity. Utterly slay old and young men, maidens and little children and women; but do not come near anyone on whom is the mark….” (Ezek 9:3-6)
As in the book of Revelation, the righteous remnant was marked and removed prior to the reaping, which in this case was the siege and destruction of Jerusalem.But as we’ve seen again and again, what happens in the Hebrew Scriptures foreshadows events in our age. “As in the days of Noah” (Luke 17:26, Gen 6:11), and as in Ezekiel’s day, the earth today is filled with violence–חָמָ֗ס–Hamas! Yes, in spite of the current ceasefire, I am sadly confident we haven’t heard the last of Hamas, and of the nations raging against God and against His redemptive plan for “the holy hill of Zion.” (Ps 2:6)
“Sixty years ago when I first started preaching, you had to scratch around like a chicken to find one sign of the Lord’s soon return. But today there are so many signs I’m no longer looking for them. Instead, I’m listening for a sound—the sound of a trumpet!” – Elbert Peak at a Bible prophecy conference in the early 1990’s, as quoted by David Reagan
Brothers and sisters, come to Yeshua for salvation NOW, before the tragic reaping. While you can still meet Him in the air as a “firstfruit offering”!
He stands at the door and knocks! (Rev 3:20)
Would you rather meet Him as Kinsman Redeemer or as Righteous Judge?
Rev 19 army image in banner: David Miles, used by gracious permission
If you’ve never opened God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus (Rom 3:23, 6:23), please please please be persuaded to do it now! It’s simple. Just tell God from your heart that you admit you’re a sinner that needs a Savior (“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom 3:23) that you’re done running your own life, and that you’re ready to make Jesus Lord of your life.
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (Rom 10:9-11)
The decision that saves you is that simple!
Simple… But no one said living it out will be easy. Especially now.
Click on the image for an informal trailer, or….
Dave made aviation history in WWII’s daring Doolittle Raid. Now he’s a downed pilot on the run.
Miyako made a vow to bury a knife in him. That vow could cost them both their lives.
Winner, Cascade Award
Finalist, Christy and Carol Awards
Inspired by Actual Events
“A taut, crisp debut achievement that colorfully evokes the Pacific theater of WWII. Start this one forewarned: it’s a stay-up-all-night read.” –Jerry B. Jenkins, 21-time New York Times bestselling author
China, 1942. Desperate and fleeing a brutal enemy, U.S. airman Dave Delham loses all hope he’ll live to see home again. If he manages to survive this mission–somehow–he swears he’ll answer God’s call on his life.
Japan, 1948. In a world where honor means everything, what would you risk to salvage yours? The war has reduced Miyako Matsuura to a street-hardened prostitute, forced to sell herself out–body and soul–to survive. But when the pilot whose bomb stole her little brother’s life returns to Japan, she sees her one chance to salvage everything. That quest drives her like the point of a dagger.
Two competing vows. Two war-damaged people racing along a deadly collision course. Can their tragic histories be redeemed?
If you like pulse-pounding tales of redemption that brim with deeply drawn characters and taut suspense, you’ll love Linda Thompson’s powerful debut novel. Immerse yourself in this award-winning story of courage and redemption today!