Pentecost: What is it?

By C. Eldon McNabb

You might ask, "What kind of question is that?" because everyone has heard of Pentecost. That is true, yet there are obviously a variety of opinions of what Pentecost is really about. I am not sure that even the so-called Pentecostal groups agree on the matter.

The word Pentecost is Greek, and therefore the term is not used in the Old Testament. However, it is essential that we remember that everything which is mentioned in the book of the New Testament is mentioned because of its origin in the book of the Old Testament (Eccl. 3:15).

Pentecost was one of the three "feasts of the Lord" which God commanded the new Nation of Israel to "keep" every year. He gave them the "Feast of Passover" as they were coming out of Egypt, and at Sinai, God added to that "the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of thy labors" (Pentecost), and "the Feast of Ingathering, which is in the end of the year" (Exo. 12 & Lev. 23:9-17). These feasts were much more than mere national holidays, as Paul said in Heb. 10:1, "For the law having a shadow of good things to come."

The time came for the beginning of the fulfillment of those special days when the promised Messiah came into the world. However, their fulfillment did not necessarily occur in the order in which they were given. It is more likely that Jesus' birth occurred on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, and His circumcision on the eighth day of that same feast, about thirty-three and a half years before He became "our Passover."

I know that most Christians keep the pagan holidays: Christmas and Easter, and minimize, or even despise, the "Feasts of the Lord." However, those feasts were given to prophesy of events related to the coming of Messiah, and we are commanded of our Lord to commemorate them annually. In Luke 22:19, Jesus himself commanded us to commemorate the Passover, saying, "This do in remembrance of Me," and in 1 Cor. 11:24,25 and 1 Cor. 5:8, Paul admonished the Church at Corinth, "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast." Also, because the "Feast of Tabernacles" foreshadowed the Messiah being present with us on Earth, all nations will be required to come up to Jerusalem to honor Him at the Feast of Tabernacles every year during the seventh millennium (Zech. 14:16-19).

In the Old Testament: The timing of the occurrence of the Feast of Pentecost was determined by the positioning of the weekly Sabbaths in relationship to the beginning of the Mosaic year. The 14th day of the month Abib was Passover, and the 15th day was a "Sabbath," no matter what day of the week it was on, and Pentecost was counted from the day following the first weekly Sabbath after that.

In Leviticus 23:9-17, God told Moses, "When ye come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. ... 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: even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord. Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the Lord."

This is a commandment concerning the seven-week harvest of the barley crop, and the fiftieth-day Feast which immediately followed it. For this reason, it is sometimes called the "Feast of Harvest" (Exo. 23:16). When that fact is considered in relationship to Matthew 13:39, where Jesus told us "The harvest is the end of the world," we can begin to see His overall prophetic intent. He used the natural harvest to prophesy of the gathering together of Christianity into one great nation, at the end of the Grace Age. He intended for us to come to the understanding, that, the two-phase gathering of Christianity (Gather first the tares) will be a forty-nine-year work. That is why the Pope of Rome declared the beginning of the Ecumenical Movement in 1962, as the prophet said, "yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times" (Jer. 8:7). In so doing, he began the countdown to the end of the Grace Age.

Pentecost is mentioned three times in the New Testament. The most famous being in Acts 2; where the account is given of the initial out-pouring of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. I think it is interesting that the glorious event which occurred there that day was actually prophesied about (foreshadowed) in an event which happened at the Feast of Tabernacles when Solomon had finished the temple.

The Lord said, "Wherefore all the men of Israel assembled themselves unto the king in the feast which was in the seventh month (Tabernacles). ... And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place: (for all the priests that were present were sanctified, and did not then wait by course: Also the Levites which were the singers, ... being arrayed in white linen, having cymbals and psalteries and harps, stood at the east end of the altar, and with them an hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets:) it came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord: ... that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord; So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God" (2 Chr. 5:3,11-14).

Therefore, although the Holy Spirit was poured out upon God's servants and on His handmaidens on the Day of Pentecost, the allegorical prophecy, which was given by the commandment concerning that day, was really about "a new meat offering of two wave loaves" which "Are the firstfruits unto the Lord" (Lev. 23:17). Those two wave loaves prophesy of The Church of the Firstborn (Hebrews 12: 22-24): half of them Jewish and the other half Gentiles.

As in any allegory, it is necessary to discover the word or phrase which is the key to opening the prophetic truth which God has hidden there. In Matthew 13:34, 35, we are told that Jesus spoke to the multitudes in parables, "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world." God kept those things secret by hiding them in a book of allegories (Matt. 11:13) called the Old Testament.

In the New Testament: The key word in this case is "firstfruits." So that is what we will use to find the meaning of Pentecost as it is expressed by the writers of the New Testament. Partly because we did not know it was prophetic, we have been missing the point of the two wave loaves, and the true meaning of Pentecost.

The Jews: James, the brother of our Lord, and John, in his final prophecy, both used the term "Firstfruits" when speaking of this subject.

James spoke of it in James 1:1,18, saying, "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad. ... Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures." (In Rom. 8:18-27, Paul explained that those "creatures" are people who are "born again.")

James did not write this to the rebellious nation of Israel, who have been without a covenant with God since the crucifixion (Romans 7); he wrote it to the Church. Luke confirmed this, saying, "Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen traveled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only" (Acts 11:19). Although Paul shows plainly that there shall be a restoration of the Jews back to God, God will never place His work on the earth back into the hands of the Jews. God made that plain in Daniel 2:44. There will be no special "message" to the Jews until "the fullness of the Gentiles be come in" (Rom. 11:25). That will be when a group of Gentiles become "The Firstfruits

When James declared the Church to be "a kind of firstfruits," he implied that there was at least one "other kind." Where is it? Wherever it is, it will be a group of Gentile Christians.

In Rev. 2l:9-14, In describing the Holy City: "the Bride, the Lamb's Wife," John used twelve angels with twelve pearls, and a wall with twelve foundations, to show us that the Church will be composed of the Twelve Jewish Apostles with 144,000 Jews, and Twelve Gentile Apostles with 144,000 Gentiles. In Rev. 7:1-8, John had described the Church of God in his day, and in Rev. 14:1-4, he had described the Gentile Church of God which will be here when Jesus comes. Then, in chapter 21, he put them together, as they will be shortly after Jesus arrives.

John described the Jewish Church, saying, "I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels ... saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel."

I know that most ministers of the gospel today project that event to happen after the saints are gone, but in Rev. 1:19, the Lord told John to, "Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter." The sealing of those 144,000 Jews had long since been done, John himself having been witness to it, during the seven years of Peter's leadership of the Church. Even the most casual look at Rev. 7:9-14 should be enough to prove, that, when Paul went to the Gentiles, verses l-8 had already been fulfilled. "After this," John said, "I beheld a great multitude, which no man could number, of Gentile Christians, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues." When John asked who they were, one of the "Four and Twenty Elders" answered and said unto him, "These are they which came out of great tribulation." The very length of time, and the severity of the persecution of Christians who were outside of the control of the Pontifex Maximus: the Pope of Rome, certainly merits the use of the term "great."

The great tribulation in Matthew 24:21, however, prophesied specifically about the Jews, and all of those calamities which came upon Jerusalem at the time of the destruction of the temple in the first century A.D.

The Gentiles: To me it is a wonderful thing that John wrote the book of "The Revelation of Jesus Christ" by the inspiration of Almighty God. Then God even went a little further and gave us the mixed blessing of the chapters and verses. (It is imperative to keep in mind that the numbered chapters in the Bible do not always indicate a change of subject.) As a result, we have 144,000 Jews in chapter 7, 144,000 Gentiles in chapter 14, and, in chapter 21, John combined the two groups; showing us 288,000 in an allegory of 12 pearls which are12,000 furlongs high, and by a wall that has 12 foundations and is 144 cubits high.

Did not Jesus say unto His disciples, "I will make you fishers of men;" alluding to Jeremiah 16:16, "Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them; again alluding to the fifth and sixth days of creation.

In Isaiah 60:1-10, God spoke of how the work of the gospel shall be turned over to the Gentiles, and that during the time that airplanes were being used by the Church, "The sons of strangers (Gentiles) shall build up thy walls."

James took it even farther in Acts 15:14-20,28. He said, "Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, "After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.

"Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. ... For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things." James was simply saying that, if the rigidity of the law were to be imposed upon the Gentile Christians, as it was upon the Jewish Christians until the destruction of the Temple, it would be an insurmountable obstacle to our being able to fulfill those prophecies: "build again the tabernacle of David," etc., and finish the preparations for the return of our Lord.

In Revelation 14:3, John described this 144,000 as being "Redeemed from the Earth," and in verse 4, he said they were "redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and unto the lamb." These are coded expressions. "Redeemed from the Earth" means they would be born again in the sixth millennium from the creation of Adam, and "Redeemed from among men," means they will be Gentiles. They are the second wave loaf; completing the number required by the prophecy of the firstfruits.

These are good examples of New Testament references to Old Testament Allegories. In this case, the account of the creation is written in such a way as to reveal the things of which I now speak. Everything which God created from the sea was created on the fifth day, likewise, everything which He created from the Earth, He did so on the sixth day.

The fullness of the Jews "came in" shortly after Jesus Christ ascended back into Heaven. John testified in Rev. 7, that, what Jesus had begun with twelve Jews had prospered into 144,000; 12,000 out of each of the twelve tribes of Israel. They became one in the Lord; to the extent that the whole body (the Church) became fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplied, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, making increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will, and multitudes were added unto them, both men and women.

Paul said that natural Israel had not obtained what they had been told to expect, but the election had obtained it, and the rest were blinded. He went on say, "blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in," and then a man would come out of the Church (the angel on the other end of the mercy seat) to turn ungodliness from Jacob (Romans 11:7,25-32).

God never hid from the Jews the fact that they could find redemption for their souls by Jesus Christ, although the kingdom of God has been taken from them, as Jesus said, in Matthew 21:43, that it would be. Today there are many Jewish believers, "but their minds are blinded (to the revelation of the mystery): for until this day remains the same veil untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament." (If being born again took off that veil, all of today's Christians would agree on the truths set forth in God's word.)

The understanding of the revelation of the great mystery of Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:27-32) is now in the purview of the Gentile Apostles and Prophets. (According to Isaiah 35:8, this mystery is not about Gentiles becoming Christians, because redemption and walking in holiness is so simple that fools can understand how to do it.) These Gentile princes, together with a group of righteous, dedicated saints, being fitly framed together, shall soon grow unto a holy temple in the Lord. Then shall the glory of the Lord be seen upon them, and then shall the Gentiles fulfill their obligation which Paul explained in Romans 11:11, "Salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke the Jews to Jealousy."

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