God's Festivals: Keys to Humanity's Future

Lesson 12, Part 3

Pentecost

Pentecost represents God using His Church—those who are converted, revitalized and transformed by His Spirit—to do His work in this current age of Satan's spiritual dominance over humankind.

Was observing Pentecost important to the apostle Paul?

“For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost” (Acts 20:16).

“But I [Paul] will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost” (1 Corinthians 16:8).

The Scriptures record that, on at least these two occasions, Paul carefully arranged his schedule according to where he wanted to be on the Festival of Pentecost. The only logical reason for Paul to “tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost” would be to observe this feast day with the gentile Christians there. As with Paul’s instruction to gentile Christians in Corinth to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread, here we again find an obvious indication that early Christians, Jew and gentile alike, observed God’s annual festivals.

What biblical events are associated with the Feast of Pentecost?

“The LORD our God made a covenant with us [ancient Israel] in Horeb … The LORD talked with you [ancient Israel] face to face on the mountain from the midst of the fire” (Deuteronomy 5:2-4).

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit …” (Acts 2:1-4, NIV).

On Pentecost, according to a respected Jewish tradition, God established Israel as His holy people—through His covenant with them—after He spoke the Ten Commandments from the top of Mount Sinai. A special relationship between Him and the Israelites was sealed at that time. They then became known as the “congregation of the LORD” (Numbers 27:17).

Equally important, Pentecost is also the anniversary of the beginning of Christianity under the New Covenant. It was on Pentecost that God first made His Spirit available to all who would repent—thus beginning the Church, which He commissioned Christ to build (Matthew 16:18). Pentecost is especially significant to Christians because on that day God established the New Testament Church.

Pentecost represents God using His Church—those who are converted, revitalized and transformed by His Spirit—to do His work in this current age of Satan’s spiritual dominance over humankind.

After Jesus’ resurrection, what did He tell His disciples?

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

The first part of this prophecy was fulfilled when, on the Feast of Pentecost, Christ’s disciples received the Holy Spirit and began their work of proclaiming His gospel to the world (Acts 2:1; Acts 2:4-18). Their lives began to miraculously change. This spiritual transformation, made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit, is the third major step in God’s master plan of salvation.

God’s gift of His Spirit began the fulfillment of the prophecies in Jeremiah 31:31-33 and Ezekiel 36:26-27. He promised to make a new covenant with the community of faithful believers. Through the Holy Spirit He promised to write His laws on their hearts and minds and no longer only on tablets of stone, as in the time of Moses. It was on the Feast of Pentecost of Acts 2 that the Church of God—the faithful believers in Christ imbued with God’s Spirit—was founded and began preaching Christ’s gospel to the world.

Anciently the Festival of Pentecost only anticipated a converted body of believers, but now it annually acknowledges and celebrates the importance of the Church and its work in God’s plan.

Does the Bible refer to the Feast of Pentecost by other names?

“And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest …” (Exodus 34:22).

“On the day of firstfruits, when you present to the LORD an offering of new grain during the Feast of Weeks, hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work” (Numbers 28:26, NIV).

The Greek word pentekoste, which means “50th,” became the New Testament name for the Old Testament “Feast of Weeks” because it occurs 50 days (seven weeks plus one day) after the first weekly Sabbath that falls during the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:10-16).

Pentecost was also known as “the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors” (Exodus 23:16). This name foreshadowed the establishment of the New Testament Church. Christians are those “who have the firstfruits of the Spirit” and those who are “redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb” (Romans 8:23; Revelation 14:4). James writes, “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures” (James 1:18).

The festivals that follow Pentecost point to God’s plan for bringing the rest of humanity to repentance. The aspects of God’s plan represented by the three spring festivals—Passover, Unleavened Bread and Pentecost—have already occurred. But the prophetic implications of the last four festivals, observed in the autumn of each year, are yet to be fulfilled. Those look forward to prophetic events yet to occur.

Let’s see how the later festivals represent aspects of God’s great plan to offer salvation to many more people.

Are the Biblical Holy Days Christian Festivals?

Why do most people keep holidays that are different from the festivals listed and described in the pages of the Bible? When were the biblical feasts abandoned, and why? How can we be sure which sacred days Christians should observe?

Here are the answers!

Jesus Himself set an example for us (1 John 2:6) in observing the sacred festivals commanded in the Holy Scriptures (Matthew 26:17; Mark 1:21; Luke 4:16-31; John 7:8-10; John 7:14; John 7:37). His apostles and their converts, walking in His footsteps and following His example, continued observing the same festivals (Acts 2:1; Acts 12:2-4; Acts 16:13; Acts 18:4; Acts 18:19-21; Acts 20:6; Acts 27:9; 1 Corinthians 5:7-8). The Encyclopaedia Britannica (13th edition), under “Festivals,” states that it is “abundantly clear that Christ and His disciples observed the appointed Jewish feasts.”

Faithful Christians continued, for several centuries after Christ’s death, to follow His and the apostles’ examples in keeping the festivals. But this all changed when a politicized and paganized form of Christianity developed within the Roman Empire.

Historian Stewart Easton explains how and when the change occurred—with the help of the Roman emperors. “Constantine [A.D. 306-337], though not baptized a Christian until he was on his deathbed, took an active interest in the [Christian] religion, presiding over the important Council of Nicea … During the fourth century, under imperial protection …, the Christian religion … made rapid progress, even in the rural areas where the old gods had never altogether lost their appeal. When at the end of the century (A.D.392) [Emperor] Theodosius I decreed that henceforth Christianity was to be the only religion in the [Roman] empire, the countryside perforce had to submit and adopt at least the forms of Christianity. But it would probably have been difficult for any observer to detect much difference … It is clear that these folk knew little enough of the teachings or theology of Christianity, and the festivals and ceremonies of paganism for the most part were incorporated directly into the new official religion ( The Heritage of the Past: From the Earliest Times to 1500 , 1964, p. 402, emphasis added).

Charles Guignebert, who was a professor of the history of Christianity at the University of Paris, describes the continuation of the process: “Now at the beginning of the fifth century, the ignorant and the semi-Christians thronged into the Church in numbers … They had forgotten none of their pagan customs … The bishops of that period had to content themselves with redressing, as best they could, and in experimental fashion, the shocking malformations of the Christian faith which they perceived around them … They had to be content with … postponing until a later date the task of eradicating their superstitions, which they preserved intact … This ‘later date’ never arrived, and the Church adapted to herself, as well as she could, them and their customs and beliefs. On their side, they were content to dress up their paganism in a Christian cloak” ( The Early History of Christianity , 1927, pp. 208-210, emphasis added).

During this time—in the early centuries after the passing of the original apostles—observance of biblical practices, including the seventh-day Sabbath and God’s festivals, practically disappeared from the new and growing religion. They were replaced with other practices and a new set of religious holidays.

Prophecy, however, reveals that God will require the whole world to observe these same biblical festivals in the future. For example, Zechariah prophesies that God will require people to attend the Feast of Tabernacles after Christ returns (Zechariah 14:16). Isaiah prophesies that people of all lands will regularly keep the weekly Sabbath during Christ’s millennial reign (Isaiah 66:23). Isaiah and Micah prophesy of that time: “Many nations shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Micah 4:2; compare Isaiah 2:3).

Some faithful Christians to this day observe the sacred festivals, the same festivals of God that Christ kept. God instituted these annual occasions to keep His people aware of Christ’s mission as the Messiah. These sacred days really are Christian festivals in every respect, and Christians everywhere should observe them.

Watch video 'Christ in the Biblical Festivals'

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