The children of Israel sacrificed their first Passover lambs; ate their first meal consisting of lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs; fled away from Pharaoh and the Egyptians; and emerged alive from the Red Sea, all in the first month (Aviv). They traveled for the remainder of the first month and throughout all of the second month (Zif or Iyyar). Then,
On the first day of the third month after their leaving Egypt the children of Israel entered the Sinai desert... (Exo. 19:1—Modern Language Version).
Assuming that the months of Aviv and Zif each had 30 days,
Although not specifically stated, I presume it was the next day (day 46) that Moses ascended the mountain to speak with God (Exo. 19:3-6); and the following day (day 47), Moses returned to the people and told them everything God had said (19:7). The people agreed with what God had said, so the next day (day 48) Moses brought this information back to the Lord (19:8,9). The Lord told Moses to return to the people that very day (day 48) and “...consecrate them today and tomorrow...and be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people” (19:10,11). The third day (Sivan 6), then, would be the fiftieth day of their trek, beginning with the day they came up out of the Red Sea (Aviv 17).
God’s appearance upon Mount Sinai, on the sixth day of the sixth month (Sivan), was in a manner that the children of Israel would not soon forget:
On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. ... Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him (Exo. 19:16,18,19).
The people were too awestruck and afraid to have God speak directly to them (Exo. 20:18; Deut. 5:5). So, then and later, God spoke to Moses the Ten Commandments and the Law (the Torah): the rules and regulations by which He wanted His people to live and the means by which sacrifices were to be presented.
Later, God commanded that a fourth feast be observed by the Jews (Lev. 23:15-22; Num. 28:26-31; Deut. 15:9-12). Beginning with the day following the regular Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (that is, beginning with the day of the Feast of Firstfruits—see P-III), they were to count off fifty days. Commonly, this is referred to as the “counting of the Omer.” On the fiftieth day, they were to “...present an offering of new grain to the Lord” (Lev. 23:16). Having been seven full weeks since the Feast of Firstfruits, it was referred to as Hag haShavuot (or simply Shavuot), meaning the “Feast of Weeks,” and also would be known as the Feast of Harvest, because it was a celebration of the wheat harvest.
In 140 A.D., the Sanhedrin (high court of Israel) made Shavuot the official commemoration of the day Moses received the Torah (Mosaic Law) on Mount Sinai.
These loaves of leavened bread were significant as a “mikrah” (rehearsal) of something that God had in mind for a time in the future. This is the explanation given by Zola Levitt:
This subtle instruction indicates a great truth. These two “wave loaves” are of equal weight and they are baked with leaven. They are called “firstfruits.” Since they are baked with leaven, they represent sinful man (certainly not, for example, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, who are unleavened) and since they are “firstfruits” they are redeemed or resurrected men. Obviously God was predicting here that the Church would be comprised of two parts, Jew and Gentile, but of course it has always been part Jewish, since the Lord inevitably retains a remnant of His People.
Jesus promises the Holy Spirit
Before His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples that He was “...going to the Father” (John 14:12c,28b, 16:10). In other words, He was going to leave them by ascending into heaven (after His resurrection) to join God the Father. Then He made this promise:
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor [or Comforter] to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live (John 14:16-19).
Jesus said that He was leaving but that the Father would send another (the Counselor or Comforter) in Jesus’ place. But then Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18) and “...you will see me” (14:19b). Later He said, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me” (16:16). How could this possibly be? Was Jesus “coming or going”? Actually, and wonderfully, He was going to do both.
Jesus truly was going to be taken up into heaven after His resurrection (Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9); but, at a later date, the Holy Spirit would come to dwell within all believers, enabling them spiritually to “see” Jesus (John 14:19b). Jesus was equating Himself with the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Godhead, in name, rank, and importance. Paul even noted that “...the Lord is the Spirit...” (2 Cor. 3:17a).
To “equate” is to regard as equal in value and/or as mutually interdependent. Just as Jesus and the Father are equal in value and are mutually interdependent (John 5:18c, 14:8-11a), so Jesus and the Holy Spirit are equivalent. There is not a thought, motive, purpose, or action that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit do not share in common. Therefore, when Jesus claimed that the Counselor (Holy Spirit) was coming, yet in another place implied that He was coming, there was no contradiction; Jesus was (and is) present in and through the Holy Spirit of God.
For forty days following His resurrection, Jesus appeared and ministered to all of his apostles (Acts 1:3), as well as to over five hundred other people (1 Cor. 15:6a). He told His apostles not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4,5). Then, ten days later, it happened:
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 and began to speak in other tongues [languages] as the Spirit enabled them (Acts 2:1-4).
“Pentecost” implies “fifty” in the Greek. In the apocryphal book of Tobit is a statement that the “...festival of Pentecost...is the sacred festival of weeks” (Tobit 2:1b). Pentecost also is mentioned by another apocryphal writer (2 Mac. 12:32a). The day culminating the Feast of Weeks, the fiftieth day beginning with the Feast of Firstfruits, is one of the three annual festivals for which all Jewish men were required to gather together before God (Exo. 34:22,23; Deut. 16:16a) in Jerusalem. This explains why
...there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound [the speaking in tongues], a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language (Acts 2:5,6).
Jesus and Pentecost
Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, fulfilled the forth Hebrew festival at Pentecost. The Feast of Weeks (or Feast of Harvest) always had been considered a time of offering “firstfruits” to the Lord (Lev. 23:20b; Num. 28:26a), just as the Feast of Firstfruits had been. Similarly, Pentecost was the beginning of the Holy Spirit’s moving at once upon many people who would be the “firstfruits” from spiritual death—“born again,” as it were—into spiritual Life in Jesus (John 3:3-7). (This does not mean these were the first people to receive the gift of eternal Life, just that they were the first to obtain access to numerous gifts of the Holy Spirit—see “gifts of the Holy Spirit”: C-6, P-IV.)
The Holy Spirit dwells inside anyone who believes in Jesus’ physical, bodily resurrection from death, who accepts Jesus as Savior and Lord of one’s life, and who looks forward with great anticipation to the miraculous resurrection and eternal perfection of one’s own body. Paul said that “...we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23).
At Mount Sinai, there was an unmistakable, extraordinary, supernatural manifestation of God to those whom He had chosen to perceive it firsthand. At that point in time, though, God still was “untouchable”; and the people were so afraid to hear God speak that Moses had to be the “mediator” between God and the children of Israel.
In Jerusalem on Pentecost, the manifestation of God, in the Holy Spirit, not only was perceived but also received by those who believed upon Jesus Christ as Lord. Jesus, manifested in the Holy Spirit, was (and is) the ultimate “mediator” between God and His people.
The law of God was given to Moses. To be “law righteous,” one must follow the law to the letter, never breaking any part of it. Breaking one part of it is to break all of it (James 2:10). And everyone, without exception, has broken God’s law (Rom. 3:23). But to be “faith righteous,” one simply must confess to God that one has broken God’s law and then surrender, through Jesus and in the Holy Spirit, to God’s Authority. Thus, one is set free from the law of sin and death (8:2).
Paul said that “...through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38,39). This is because “...a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law” (Rom. 3:28). The bottom line, then, is that “...the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17); and we “...are justified freely by [God’s] grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ” (Rom. 3:24). We cannot save ourselves by “doing as many good things as possible”; only God’s mercy and grace can save us.
The Feast of Weeks (or Pentecost) is the last Hebrew feast in the Spring. It is also the last one that Jesus literally kept as a “mo’ed” (appointment). There are yet three festivals/holy days—the “latter rain” festivals—celebrated each year in the Fall, which also will be fulfilled by Jesus in unspecified future years. Ever since the outflowing of the Spirit at Pentecost, we have been in the “summer cultivation” period—the time when we are to “sow as many seeds” as we can (that is, spread the truth of the Gospel to as many people as possible) so that a “bumper crop” of “fruit” (believers) literally will be brought into God’s Kingdom at the next harvest. Somehow, I believe this harvest is much nearer than most people could even dream to be possible.
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Copyright © 1998– by Ted M. Montgomery, O.D. Most rights reserved.