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The Pentecost Prophecy - By Gary Stearman -
Every year about this time, I reconsider studies done in the past, never forgetting the first time I realized the significance of the Jewish festivals. We do not formally observe them as do the Jews, but we certainly note their annual passing, as a parade of God’s master plan for the ages.
This issue of our magazine is entirely devoted to studying the powerful imagery implicit in the biblical festival of Pentecost. This article is one of three studies, each linking Pentecost with the prophetic destiny of the church. Anyone with a basic knowledge of the Bible knows that the church was born on Pentecost. It lies at the center of Israel’s seven feasts, at the pinnacle of the festival cycle. Biblically, culturally and historically, the symbolic power of Pentecost is unrivalled. It is laden with deep meaning and brimming with narratives that speak of God’s love, and His prophetic promises. We believe that there is a natural connection between Pentecost and the rapture of the church.
If you keep up with current news in the world of Christian prophecy studies, you’ve likely heard that the rapture could happen this month … on Pentecost. This year, since its observance happens to arrive on the date of Israel’s 65th birthday, speculation is more fervent than usual. Some have proclaimed that the long-awaited rapture could come during the period that begins on Tuesday evening, May 14th. At that time, they say, the church will be caught up, destabilizing global politics and leading to the tumult of a war in the Middle East. That war, or perhaps the first of a series of battles in that war, will destroy the power of the United States. Or, so goes the theory.
We have long advocated the view that Pentecost is a type of the rapture, not that the rapture must come exactly on any given Pentecost, though this timing is possible, perhaps even likely. We believe that it is of prime importance that we are actively anticipating Christ’s imminent return on any day. In Paul’s epistle to Titus, this position is clearly advocated:
“13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:13,14).
This year, the Jewish festival called Shavuot [Weeks] or Pentecost, falls on Wednesday and Thursday, the 6th and 7th of Sivan, corresponding to the 15th and 16th of May. But since the biblical description of this festival always places it on a Sunday, some would say that the nearest likely date would fall on either the preceding or following Sunday: either May 12th or May 19th. Actually, this uncertainty is quite appropriate, given the fact that Pentecost is called “the festival without a date.” In reality, its appearance, as originally calculated by the new moon, the Passover and a seven-week countdown, is quite flexible.
Pentecost, the harvest festival, falls in the middle of the seven major feasts of the Jewish calendar. They are Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Pentecost, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and Tabernacles.
The first three come in the spring of the year; the last three arrive in the fall. The opening three festivals are expressions of Christ’s first coming. Passover and Unleavened Bread depict His death and burial. On Firstfruits, He was resurrected from the dead.
The final three festivals foreshadow His Second Coming. Rosh HaShanah illustrates the judgments of the Day of the Lord. Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement foreshadows Christ’s appearance at the end of the Tribulation. Tabernacles depicts the establishment of His Kingdom reign.
Taken together, the festivals form a kind of timeline, beginning with Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection in the spring festivals and ending as delineated in the fall feasts, with His return in judgment and the establishment of Israel in the Kingdom era. At the midpoint of all these activities, Pentecost stands as a beacon, marking the coming of God’s Holy Spirit, and the establishment of the body of Christ, the church. Furthermore, it denotes the great harvest at the end of the age.
Jesus and the Harvest
In Matthew 13:39, Jesus said, “The harvest is the end of the world.” By this, He meant that the events of the end times would culminate in a great harvest of souls.
In keeping with the harvest theme, the Jews honor Pentecost as the day reserved in heaven for the judgment of the fruit of trees. We are reminded of Christ’s own words: Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt. 7:20).
On Pentecost, He sent His Holy Spirit, creating the body of Christ – the church – as we know it today. Since that time, its goal has been to witness for Him, “to the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Christ likened evangelism to the planting of seed, which matures until the time of the harvest. His return for His people would be the next event in the Christian prophetic calendar. Significantly, after Firstfruits, the next important date on the festival calendar is Pentecost.
In the era of the Temple, Jews dramatically celebrated the feast of Firstfruits (Hebrew: Omer). On the Sunday following Passover, the high priest stood to offer the Omer, or first gathering of the grain harvest. In Leviticus 23:11, it is called, “the sheaf.” This offering was counted as day one. “Counting the Omer” then continued for fifty days, until Pentecost:
“15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: 16 Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD. 17 Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the LORD” (Lev. 23:15-17).
The above-mentioned “fifty days” typify redemption. For Jewish scholars, this period represents the maturing of the relationship between God and Israel. For Christians, it adds the feature of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Christ rose from the dead on Firstfruits (the Omer), and angels promised His return “in like manner.”
As Paul later put it, describing resurrection, “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (1Cor. 15:23).
But there are hazards in farming to produce a harvest. Jesus often spoke of this fact:
“37 He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; 38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; 39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. 40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. 41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Matt. 13:37-43).
Counting each day from the public exhibit of the Omer is the equivalent of watching crops grow. Anyone who has observed farmers in action knows that their routine is fraught with unpredictability that involves much anxious watching. In addition to tares and weeds there are pests, drought, disease and bad weather, all of which will threaten the final outcome of his crop.
The harvest will be accompanied by the equivalent of threshing. The good grain must ultimately be winnowed and finally ground into fine flour, worthy of baking.
The Wicked World
As given above in Leviticus, the fifty-day count begins with the first sheaf and ends with two loaves, each baked with leavening.
At Pentecost, the harvest of souls in the church age is complete. The two baked loaves held aloft by the priest are bodies representing the redeemed. They are lifted above the earth, suggesting an ascent to heaven. And they are baked with leavening.
But why would they be leavened loaves? We know that throughout Scripture, leavening is a type of evil, wickedness and depravity. At Passover, only unleavened bread was eaten. Jesus also warned his followers: “6 Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6).
Furthermore, He once told His disciples: “33 Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened” (Matt. 13:33).
Many have commented on His statement, saying that the three measures of meal represent the three groups of people spoken of in Scripture: Jews, Gentiles and the church. All have been tainted by the evil that requires redemption. The woman? She is none other than the figure of Mystery Babylon.
Dispensational Importance of Pentecost
Dispensationally speaking, Pentecost is of great importance. Beginning with Noah and the Flood, it has marked the moment when one dispensation changes to another.
“14 And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the earth dried. 15 And God spake unto Noah, saying, 16 Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons’ wives with thee. 17 Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee, of all flesh, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth” (Gen. 8:14-17).
The date given above is the 27th of Iyar, about a week before the 6th of Sivan, the day that in a later era, would be designated as Shavuot (Pentecost). Noah, his family and the animals disembarked, then Noah built an altar and worshiped the Lord.
A short time passed. We would suggest about a week. Then the next recorded event in Noah’s life is seen in Genesis, Chapter 9, where the Lord makes His covenant with Noah. This was done at the beginning of the third month, Sivan, on the very date that later became Pentecost. The Noahic Covenant marked the change from the dispensation of Conscience to Human Government.
We find the same time marker at the initiation of the dispensation of Law. Moses brought Israel to Midian:
“19 In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai” (Ex. 19:1).
Arriving at the mountain where he would receive the commandments of the Law from the Lord, Moses spoke:
“15 And he said unto the people, Be ready against the third day: come not at your wives. 16 And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled” (Ex. 19:15,16).
This signal event came about on the 3rd of Sivan, and the days immediately following. Thus, the dispensation of Law began on Shavuot … Pentecost.
Of course, the next change of dispensation came when Law was replaced by the age of Grace, on that most famous Pentecost for Christians:
“1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4).
Christ’s disciples had stayed up all night, as demanded by Jewish tradition. The day was “fully come” on the next morning at sunrise.
It is our contention that Pentecost, the day of dispensational change, should be carefully noted by believers, although Christians have no need to perform tradition rituals of the Law. Past events suggest future trends, as we await another change of dispensation beginning with the rapture and the Day of the Lord.
The accompanying articles in this issue will detail many other aspects of Pentecost, including the story of Ruth, the Gentile woman who was chosen by the wealthy landowner Boaz on the night of Pentecost. Later, they were united in marriage and she bore him a son, Obed, who was the grandfather of King David.
Also, we’ll spend time on the Pentecost tradition called “decorating the bride.” Jews stay up all night studying Scripture in the hope that they will receive a special blessing. They believe that the heavens will open briefly to the serious supplicant, and that God will favorably answer prayer as His Holy Spirit bursts forth.
The Temple Menorah
As with virtually every other aspect of Pentecost, we see here, a perfect picture of the rapture, when the skies will literally open up for a moment described by Paul in the following way:
“51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51,52).
This is the “brief instant,” which the Jews seek so diligently. The first trumpet, the voice of the Lord, was sounded over Mount Sinai all those years ago. The last trumpet, also the sound of the Lord’s voice, will soon sound again. Logic says that it, too, could come on Pentecost:
“16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Th. 4;16,17).
This trumpet is neither a ram’s horn, nor a metallic instrument; it is the Lord’s own voice, calling us into the atmospheric heavens, from whence we shall rise to heaven and glory.
A final thought: Of the seven feasts of Israel, Pentecost stands in the middle. It reminds us of that great spiritual symbol of the Temple, the Menorah, which had seven lamps. Three lamps stood on each side of the central Servant Lamp, which typified Jesus. It was elevated above the others, and was used to light the other lamps. Like Pentecost, itself, it brings spiritual illumination to all seven feasts. In a way, it symbolizes the connection between heaven and earth.
Pentecost – what a perfect time for the Lord to take us home, if not this year, then soon!
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