Feast of Pentecost

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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.... And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.—Leviticus 23:15-16, 21

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

OBJECTIVE

To teach that the Feast of Pentecost pictures the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to establish God’s Church, the firstfruits of His plan of salvation.

Note to parents

We encourage you to read through this material with your children to provide an overview of the meaning of the Day of Pentecost and what it pictures in God’s plan. Then choose appropriate material from the supplemental pages that you feel will be helpful in teaching and reinforcing the meaning of this festival.

We learn that historically in Palestine there was only a small, spring grain harvest, later followed by the much larger fall harvest.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FESTIVAL

The third annual holy day in God’s plan of salvation for all of humanity is the Day of Pentecost. For this festival, God uses the analogy of the harvest cycle to teach how He is working with only a small group of humanity at this time. We learn that historically in Palestine there was only a small, spring grain harvest, later followed by the much larger fall harvest (Exodus 23:19). Similarly, God shows us that He is now working intimately with a small group of people—His elect, also called the firstfruits. The larger fall harvest represents the time God will work closely with the rest of humanity.

Pentecost celebrates the founding of the Church of God through the granting of the Holy Spirit to His elect. It is through the presence of the Spirit of God dwelling within us that we are empowered to conquer the pulls of Satan and sin and live a godly life (1 John 4:4).

This solemn ceremony had profound spiritual significance because it depicted Christ’s ascension and acceptance by the Father as the first of the firstfruits of humanity.  
Counting 50 days

Unlike the other six annual Sabbaths, there is no fixed calendar date for the observance of the Feast of Pentecost. It must be determined each and every year by counting. Because of this unique requirement, the Bible refers to this commanded observance by several names.

In Leviticus 23, ancient Israel is instructed to count 50 days, allowing for 7 weeks between the wave sheaf offering and the day of Pentecost. The Feast of Weeks and Pentecost—a Greek word meaning “fiftieth”—directly draw their names from this instruction. It is also known as the Feast of Firstfruits or the Feast of Harvest (Exodus 23:16). 

In ancient Israel, the high priest selected a sheaf from among the firstfruits—the very first grain harvested in the spring—and in thankfulness waved it before God to be accepted on behalf of the people (Leviticus 23:10-14). This solemn ceremony had profound spiritual significance because it depicted Christ’s ascension and acceptance by the Father as the first of the firstfruits of humanity (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).

The prescribed 50-day count then begins on the day the wave sheaf offering was to be presented—the Sunday following the weekly Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Ancient Israel was not allowed to partake of the new spring grain harvest until after the presentation of the wave sheaf offering. During the next seven weeks, the small, early spring harvest would be reaped until Pentecost.

The New Testament Church and beyond

On the Day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2, we read of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on 120 believers of Christ (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:1-4). Demonstrating miraculous power, God inspired the miracle of speaking and hearing in numerous languages simultaneously (Acts 2:6-11). As a result, that day roughly 3000 individuals who willingly repented were baptized and received the Holy Spirit. These pivotal events marked the beginning of the New Testament Church—the firstfruits of humanity in God’s great plan of salvation (Acts 2:41; James 1:18).

Demonstrating miraculous power, God inspired the miracle of speaking and hearing in numerous languages simultaneously.

Through the Holy Spirit, the same power that allowed Jesus Christ to overcome the world is available to us, His elect (John 14:10-12; 16:33). This portion of God’s divine nature working within called-out individuals produces a miraculous, gradual change in their thinking and behavior. With His Spirit, God is able to begin writing His laws on our hearts and minds (2 Corinthians 3:3; Hebrews 8:10). It is the very presence and power of God residing within individuals through the Holy Spirit that identifies them as children of God (Romans 8:9, 14).

It is the gift of God’s Spirit of truth that grants us the ability to truly overcome our sinful nature and earnestly obey the Father and the Son.

The Day of Pentecost allows us to build on our understanding gained from the previous festivals. Passover reveals that Christ’s complete sacrifice covers our past sins. The seven-day observance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread demonstrates the need to turn from our sinful nature and replace it with righteousness. It is the gift of God’s Spirit of truth that grants us the ability to truly overcome our sinful nature and earnestly obey the Father and the Son.

No doubt our Almighty God is eagerly anticipating the day when He will bring “many sons to glory.”

The Feast of Pentecost instructs us that God is currently working directly with a small group of people— His elect, the firstfruits—and is not attempting to save the whole world at this time. God does not desire “that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), and the wisdom of His plan accounts for all of humanity. But today is not the day of salvation for the majority of the world; that will occur at its appointed time (1 Corinthians 15:23-28). 

God’s annual Sabbaths plainly testify to our dire need to be rescued from Satan, sin and ourselves. God’s annual Sabbaths likewise plainly testify to the Father’s perfect, pure love for all humanity. No doubt our Almighty God is eagerly anticipating the day when He will bring “many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10).

SCRIPTURE DISCUSSION POINTS

You can use the following guided discussion topics to stimulate dialogue about the Feast of Pentecost. When reading and discussing these concepts, be mindful of the maturity level of your children. Adjust the discussion based on their level of personal development. Young children will not necessarily need all of this information during their early years.

God established this holy day’s observance “to be kept throughout your generations.”

Day of Pentecost observance commanded

Commanded observance (Leviticus 23:21)

  • Explain that this is the third holy day in God’s annual holy day cycle. Review the first two festivals and their meanings:
    • Passover, a memorial of Christ’s sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins
    • Feast of Unleavened Bread, a seven-day festival that reminds us of our need to turn from sin and obey God’s laws
  • Explain and define convocation: “a calling together; a group of people formally assembled for a special purpose.” Since this is a holy convocation under God’s authority, our presence is commanded.
  • Explain that a holy day is an annual Sabbath day: rather than work, we attend church services, rejoice, give an offering, and so on.
  • Explain that God established this holy day’s observance “to be kept throughout your generations.”

Pentecost is also referred to as the Feast of Weeks because seven weeks are counted from the Days of Unleavened Bread to this festival.

Feast of Weeks (Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:9-12)

  • Explain that Pentecost is also referred to as the Feast of Weeks because seven weeks are counted from the Days of Unleavened Bread to this festival.
  • Ask, Who is to be included in this celebration? Explain that God desires all of humanity to obey Him and receive the full measure of His blessings.

Day of firstfruits (Numbers 28:26)

  • Explain that Pentecost is also referred to as the day of firstfruits or the Feast of Firstfruits.

Feast of Harvest (Exodus 23:16)

  • Explain that Pentecost is referred to as the Feast of Harvest because it completes the small harvest of fruitfruits.

Emphasize that the count must always start within the Days of Unleavened Bread.

Counting 50: When is Pentecost?

“Count fifty days” (Leviticus 23:15-16)

  • Explain that this is the only festival that does not have a fixed calendar date. This holy day’s observance is always determined by counting.
  • Explain that the Greek word Pentecost means “fiftieth,” as in the “fiftieth day.”
  • Explain that the “day after the Sabbath” (verse 15) refers to the first day of the week (Sunday) during the Days of Unleavened Bread. We must count 50 days to know when to observe this festival. (Download and print the file “Counting 50” for a helpful calendar.)
  • Emphasize that the count must always start within the Days of Unleavened Bread (verses 11, 15-16).

Have your child place an “X” or a sticker over each number as you follow God’s prescribed instructions to count to 50.

Seven weeks (Deuteronomy 16:9-10)

  • Emphasize that God instructs us to count each and every year. He does not provide a predetermined date on the calendar. Although Pentecost occurs on a different calendar date each year, it always occurs on the same day of the week—Sunday.
  • Demonstrate how to skip count to 49 by 7s (7, 14, 21, and so on) using the 7 Sabbaths between the Days of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost. Show how the fiftieth day is numbered after the seventh Sabbath (Leviticus 23:15-16).
  • Download and print the file “Counting 50” and actively count the required 50 days (or the 7 weeks) between the wave sheaf offering and Pentecost. Have your child place an “X” or a sticker over each number as you follow God’s prescribed instructions to count to 50.

Christ: first of the firstfruits

“First of your firstfruits” (Exodus 23:19)

  • Explain and define firstfruits: “the small, initial gathering of the harvest; the produce that is ripe first.”
  • Explain that God instructed that the first of the firstfruits from this early spring harvest belonged to Him.

The wave sheaf offering marks the beginning of the required counting of 50 days to determine the date for the Feast of Pentecost.

Wave sheaf offering (Leviticus 23:9-12)

  • Explain that the wave sheaf offering was presented on the day after the weekly Sabbath, the Sunday that fell during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (verse 15).
  • Emphasize that this offering was never presented outside of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, even if the first day of Unleavened Bread fell on a Sunday. This apparently took place in Joshua 5:10-11: “parched grain” is a reference to the wave sheaf offering. Based on context, this would have been offered on the first day of Unleavened Bread.
  • Explain that the wave sheaf offering marks the beginning of the required counting of 50 days to determine the date for the Feast of Pentecost.
  • Explain that ancient Israel was not allowed to eat any of the new harvest until the wave sheaf offering was presented to God (Leviticus 23:14).
  • Notice the requirements of the animal sacrifice that was to accompany the offering: the unblemished, male lamb was to be in its first year of life. This “perfect” lamb represented Jesus Christ.

Each and every human being that has ever lived and died will be resurrected again—in God’s determined order.

Christ the firstfruits (1 Corinthians 15:20-24)

  • Explain that the wave sheaf offering pictures the ascension of the resurrected Christ to the throne of God, to be accepted as the firstfruits (verse 20).
  • Explain that Christ was the first human to be resurrected from the dead to eternal life as a spirit being (Romans 8:29). Christ’s resurrection is the source of our faith that we will receive the gift of eternal life by a resurrection from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:12-22; Colossians 1:15, 18).
  • Explain that God has a plan. Each and every human being that has ever lived and died will be resurrected again—in God’s determined order.
  • Explain that God is not attempting to save all people right now. He is currently working with a small group of people, represented by the small spring harvest of firstfruits. God will work with the rest of the world—the great majority of people—later in His plan, as illustrated through the fall holy days.
  • Review the first and second resurrections.

Christ accepted as the wave sheaf offering (John 20:11-27)

  • Explain that Christ ascended to the Father’s throne and was accepted by the Father on the same day. Mary could not touch Christ until the Father had accepted His sacrifice. Later, Christ’s disciples could touch Him (Matthew 28:9).
  • Emphasize that the events of John 20 took place on the day of the wave sheaf offering.

The Church is not a building but a group of people called by God.

The Church: God’s firstfruits

“I will build My Church” (Matthew 16:18)

  • Explain that Christ is the head of the Church (Colossians 1:18).
  • Explain and define church: “called-out ones; those who belong to the Lord.” The Church is not a building but a group of people called by God (1 Peter 2:9-10).
  • Explain that Christ promised that the “gates of Hades” would never prevail against His Church (Matthew 16:18). God’s true Church has continually remained on this earth since the granting of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.

Filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4)

  • Explain that this event marked the founding of the New Testament Church of God.
  • Explain that this event served to emphasize that God would no longer reveal His plan of salvation through the physical nation of Israel. The Church of God—His spiritual body—would now represent and magnify His plan and purpose for humanity.

God grants the same Holy Spirit today to His elect, and to all His faithful servants throughout the generations.

  • Explain that this event confirmed and sealed the disciples’ role in the preaching of the gospel of Christ (Luke 24:44-49).
  • Explain that while the initial granting of the Holy Spirit to the disciples on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 was a unique event with manifestations of wind and fire, God nonetheless grants the same Holy Spirit today to His elect, and to all His faithful servants throughout the generations.

Spirit dwelling within (Romans 8:9-11)

  • Explain that only those with the Holy Spirit are children of God, a part of His true Church (Romans 8:14).
  • Explain that the Holy Spirit is the seal of the firstfruits of God, necessary to receive eternal life (Ephesians 1:13-14).
  • Explain that God has generously granted to His elect the firstfruits of His Spirit (Romans 8:23). Eventually God will place His Holy Spirit into all those who repent and yield to His way of life.

Firstfruits of His creation (James 1:18)

  • Explain that the Church represents the small, first “harvest” of humanity. Pentecost pictures the first part of God’s spiritual harvest, that of the firstfruits (Leviticus 23:17).
  • Explain that an individual who has the Holy Spirit dwelling within is considered a firstfruit (Romans 8:14; 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:15). “Firstfruits” can refer to either individual people or a group of people.

The firstfruits obey the commandments of God and are faithful to Christ’s teachings.  “Firstfruits to God and to the Lamb” (Revelation 14:1-5)

  • Explain that the firstfruits follow the Lamb, Jesus Christ, wherever He goes.
  • Explain that the firstfruits obey the commandments of God and are faithful to Christ’s teachings (Matthew 7:21-27; Revelation 14:12).
  • Discuss what the character of a firstfruit of God looks like.

Continued observance of Pentecost (1 Corinthians 16:5-9; Acts 20:16)

  • Ask, What holy day were Christ’s followers observing in Acts 2? Christ had ascended into the clouds 10 days previously. If the observance of this holy day were no longer necessary, Christ would have told them they didn’t need to observe it anymore.
  • Explain that Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, taught the Church to observe Pentecost and all of God’s holy days. These are not Jewish feasts but God’s feasts (Leviticus 23:2).

The gift of God’s Holy Spirit

“You shall receive power” (Acts 1:8-9)

  • These were the final words—the last instruction—that Christ gave to His disciples before ascending to the right hand of the Father.

The Holy Spirit dwells within an individual and guides one’s thinking.

  • Explain that Christ told them to remain in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49). If they had not followed Christ’s instruction and had not observed the Feast of Pentecost, they would not have received God’s Spirit.
  • Ask, How important is obedience to God? God only gives His Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32).

God placed a portion of His Holy Spirit into those individuals who had genuinely repented and were actively seeking to follow Christ.

The Comforter (John 14:15-17, 26)

  • Explain and define comforter: “one who goes alongside to help.”
  • Explain that Christ promised that the Father would send the Holy Spirit to His followers.
  • Discuss that the Holy Spirit is also referred to as the “Spirit of truth” (John 16:13).
  • Explain that the Holy Spirit dwells within an individual and guides one’s thinking.

Filled with the Spirit (Acts 2:1-12)

  • Explain and discuss the Holy Spirit—the divine presence and power of the Eternal God at work within our lives (Acts 1:8; Romans 15:13, 19; 2 Timothy 1:7).
  • Explain that Christ’s promise to His disciples recorded in Luke 24:49 was fulfilled. The 120 believers received the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:15; 2:1-4).
  • Explain that God placed a portion of His Holy Spirit into those individuals who had genuinely repented and were actively seeking to follow Christ (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17).
  • Discuss the miraculous happenings of this Day of Pentecost. It was the divine power of God’s Spirit that caused:
    • The disciples to speak in multiple languages.
    • The multitudes to hear in their native languages.
    • The repentance of 3000 individuals.
  • Explain that God performed these powerful acts in Jerusalem in the presence of many to confirm that this event was from His Hand—not that of men.

Prior to their baptism, the Holy Spirit begins working with those whom God is calling.

A promise to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39)

  • Explain that repentance and baptism are necessary to receive the Holy Spirit.
  • Explain and discuss repentance: “genuine sorrow that leads to change.” Many individuals will hear God’s truth during their lifetimes. Yet only a few will choose to accept the sacrifice of Christ, repent from their sins and turn to obey God (Matthew 7:13-14; 22:14).
  • Discuss that prior to their baptism, the Holy Spirit begins working with those whom God is calling (and works in them after baptism). Even if we are not yet baptized, we can repent of our sins, strive to obey God, and receive God’s help to live the way that pleases Him.

We need God’s divine presence and power leading and guiding us daily.

His divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4)

  • Explain that when granting His Holy Spirit, God places a measure of His divine nature—His character—within an individual (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).

The Holy Spirit is not a person or spirit being. God’s Holy Spirit is His divine power.

  • Explain that the power of the Holy Spirit enables one to genuinely obey God and honor Him (Romans 8:26-27). It is impossible to worship God properly without His Spirit of truth (John 4:24).
  • Explain that without God’s Spirit it is impossible to fully obey God. We need God’s divine presence and power leading and guiding us daily.

Spirit of truth (John 16:13)

  • Explain that the word he is not a good translation. The proper translation should be the gender neutral “it.”
  • Explain that the Holy Spirit is not a person or spirit being. God’s Holy Spirit is His divine power (Luke 1:35; 24:49; Acts 1:8).
  • Explain that God’s Holy Spirit guides one into truth, hence the Spirit of truth.

“I will put My laws into their hearts” (Hebrews 10:15-17)

  • Explain that ancient Israel was unable to completely obey God’s law because they lacked the gift of the Holy Spirit (Deuteronomy 5:29; Hebrews 8:8-12).
  • Discuss what it means to have God’s law written upon our hearts and minds. Without God’s Holy Spirit, it is impossible for an individual to have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:6-16).

When God’s Spirit is working with or in an individual, there is visible evidence: that individual will begin to display the character of God.

Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)

  • Explain that when God’s Spirit is working with or in an individual, there is visible evidence: that individual will begin to display the character of God (Matthew 7:20).
  • Discuss each of the listed qualities of godly character.
  • Focus on and work to develop a different quality of the fruit of the Spirit throughout the weeks of Passover, Days of Unleavened Bread, and the 50-day count to Pentecost.

Stories related to the Day of Pentecost

Ancient Israel receiving the 10 Commandments, which may have occurred on the Feast of Weeks, in Exodus 19-20: In the third month, after journeying in the wilderness for about seven weeks, ancient Israel arrived at Mount Sinai. Taking three days to sanctify themselves, ancient Israel came to the foot of the mountain to receive God’s 10 Commandments. God revealed to Israel that they were to be a holy nation to Him (Exodus 19:3-6).

King Hezekiah’s restoration of God’s festivals and ordinances, in 2 Chronicles 31:2-8, 20-21:  After the observance of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Hezekiah restored the priests and Levites to regular service within the temple. The sacrifices were reinstated “for the Sabbaths and the New Moons and the set feasts, as it is written in the Law of the LORD” (verse 3). Firstfruits and tithes were collected in the third and seventh months. Hezekiah “did what was good and right and true before the LORD his God…. So he prospered” (verses 20-21).

The New Testament Church receiving the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:  Having obeyed Christ’s directive to remain in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit, the apostles and other followers of Christ were gathered with one accord within the temple in Jerusalem. Through the power of God’s Spirit, a dual miracle took place: the apostles spoke in multiple languages and all the listeners heard the great works of God in their own tongues (languages). Peter preached powerfully of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Roughly 3000 individuals were added to the Church on the day of its founding.

Memory Verse

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. —Galatians 5:22-23

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