The Forgotten Celebration of Pentecost

"And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues." Acts 2:4

“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues.” Acts 2:4

About six weeks after Jesus was resurrected—exactly fifty days, in fact—God sent the Holy Spirit to be our helper, counselor, and guide. In the Jewish faith, this day is called Shavuot. In the Christian faith, it’s called Pentecost.

What most people don’t know is that Jesus’ resurrection and the Day of Pentecost happen to fall on important Jewish holidays. Coincidence? Of course not. Nothing God does is a coincidence. In fact, Jesus was born and died during Passover, a week that celebrates God’s deliverance. God’s timing is always perfect and purposeful.

So, what’s the significance of the timing of the resurrection and Pentecost? Why should we pay any attention at all to the Day of Pentecost? To answer that, we need to revisit everyone’s favorite book in the Bible—Leviticus.

Gift of Firstfruits

When God spoke to Moses in Leviticus, He was laying down the rules for all His people to follow. In chapter twenty-three, God tells Moses what to do with their firstfruits from their harvests.

“And the Lord spoke to Moses saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: When you come into the land which I give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.’” Leviticus 23:9-11

The firstfruits were the first portion of the harvest. It’s meant to be an offering of thanks to God. Since not many of us today are farmers, we often refer to our firstfruits as the tithe. We go to work all week, and, when we receive our paychecks, we give the first ten percent to our church. Our offering is our firstfruit, an offering of thanks for God providing us with money to pay for what we need.

Another firstfruit is Jesus. On the day He was resurrected (which most of us call Easter), He became the firstfruit offering on our behalf to the Father. In other words, He became the tithe for us in response to His redemptive work on the cross and His victory over death.

The Bible refers to Jesus as the firstborn from the dead. Those who obey Christ and believe in Him will also be alive with Him after death, but Jesus was the first.

“But now Christ is raised from the dead and has become the firstfruits of those who have died… Christ is the firstfruits; then those who are Christ’s, at His coming.” 1 Corinthians 15:20,23

He is the firstfruit of life.

He is the tithe.Jesus is the firstfruit of eternal life. He is our tithe to the Father for our earthly lives.

The Day After the Sabbath

Another important part to notice of the above Scripture is verse eleven:

“He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath, the priest shall wave it.”

In Hebrew culture, the Sabbath is typically on Saturdays. God clearly tells Moses that the firstfruits should be waved before the Lord the day after the Sabbath, which would be Sunday.

What day of the week was Jesus resurrected? A Sunday, the day after a Sabbath. In this case, that Sabbath day was also Passover. We know this from Mark 15:42 when Joseph of Artimathea came to claim Jesus’ body for burial in his family tomb.

“Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is the day before the Sabbath…”

Passover was on Saturday, a traditional Sabbath day, which means Jesus died on the cross on a Friday, and the day after the Sabbath was a Sunday. The day of Jesus’ resurrection, therefore, fell on the Jewish Feast of Firstfruits.

Looking back at Leviticus, we clearly see a foreshadowing of Jesus.

Looking Ahead to Pentecost

God then tells Moses in Leviticus 23:15-16…

“And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath, then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord.”

So, an offering was made to God the first day after the Sabbath of Passover, and another was made fifty days later, which is known as the Feast of Weeks in the Jewish faith.

Later in the book of Acts, exactly fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection, the Holy Spirit was given to us. This day is known as the Day of Pentecost (“Pentecost” means “fiftieth”).The evidence of the Holy Spirit's presence on the Day of Pentecost was flames hovering over the disciples' heads.

“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2:1-4

The Holy Spirit came to the world that day as the firstfruits of the believer’s inheritance of eternal life. And, for those who were there in person that day, they became the firstfruits of the full harvest of all believers (including you and me) who came after them.

They were our tithe under the Holy Spirit.

The Pentecost Guarantee

Paul talks about our inheritance and the guarantee of the Holy Spirit:

“Now He who has prepared us for this very [purpose] is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” 2 Corinthians 5:5

“In Him also we have obtained an inheritance…that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:11

“In whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14

The Holy Spirit is a personal promise from God that believers will receive the inheritance of eternal life. We will all be counted as the full harvest, especially when Jesus returns to claim His people and kingdom one day.

Why does He give us this ironclad promise? For the praise of His glory, and of course, His glory is worthy of all praise because of everything He’s done for us and continues to do.

We also know God cannot betray His character. He cannot lie (Titus 1:2), and His word is never voided (Isaiah 55:11). So, if He promises us something, we know we can trust Him unconditionally.

Jesus had already promised us eternal life in John 14:2

“In My Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself that where I am there, you may be also.”

Jesus already promised us eternal life. The Holy Spirit came to be the guarantee of it.

A Time of Celebration

The gift of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost is a cause for celebration for all Christians.

The chances that Jesus’ death and resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit all falling on the three most important Jewish springtime holidays have been calculated as more than 1 in 48 million. Yet, we know nothing God does is a coincidence. It’s all meant as a reason to exalt the Lord for the praise of His glory.

Unfortunately, today’s churches don’t commonly talk about Pentecost. Many of you may have almost no idea what it’s about, but now you do. It’s a time to celebrate God’s gift of the Holy Spirit as the firstfruit of our inheritance in heaven and to guarantee us eternal life.

This year, the Day of Pentecost is June 9. I encourage you to take a moment in prayer to offer God thanks for sending the Holy Spirit. For sending not only a helper and counselor but also a guarantee that we who believe will never be separated from our heavenly Father.

He’s already prepared a place for us. What a day that will be when we see Him. On the Day of Pentecost, let us give Him praise for His unspeakable gift—the Holy Spirit.

Further Reading

Pastor Ron Cantor at Messiah’s Mandate offers more insight about Jesus’ resurrection and why it’s a significant Jewish springtime holiday that many Jews don’t realize. Click here to read all about The Secret Jewish Holiday No One is Talking About.

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