3 Ways Pentecost Shows Us the Future
This annual holy day has even more to tell us about the future than the past. Here’s what happens when we look at Pentecost through the lens of the future.
Most Christians recognize Pentecost as the day the New Testament Church began—the day God poured out His Holy Spirit on His people and set the wheels of the modern era in motion. (If you’re not familiar with it, you can read about it in Acts 2.)
But Pentecost is more than just a remembrance of the past. In fact, some of the most significant aspects of Pentecost point us toward the future. Let’s take a look at three of these signposts and see what they can show us about God’s plan for humanity.
To learn more about this special festival, read “Pentecost: God Gives the Holy Spirit.”
1. The Day of the Lord
God didn’t give His Spirit to Christ’s disciples in secret. On the Day of Pentecost, A.D. 31, nearby crowds heard “a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind” (Acts 2:2). As those crowds hurried in to see what was happening, they were bewildered to discover the disciples speaking in their own native languages (Acts 2:6-8, 9-11).
Peter, one of the disciples, explained to the “amazed and perplexed” onlookers what was happening by referencing an ancient prophecy from the book of Joel (verses 12-16). In that prophecy, God promised to “pour out of My Spirit on all flesh” (verse 17) and cause His servants to speak under His inspiration—exactly what was happening before their very eyes.
“I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD” (verses 19-20).
That didn’t happen on the Pentecost of A.D. 31. Almost 2,000 years later, it still hasn’t happened. Joel’s prophecy was only partially fulfilled when the Church began—the “great and awesome day of the LORD” is still ahead of us and promises to be an unmistakable period of time when God executes judgment on the nations of the world for their wicked acts.
The Day of the Lord features heavily in God’s plan, and Peter’s message on Pentecost reminds us that it’s still coming. It is pictured in the next festival in God’s plan, the Feast of Trumpets.
2. The harvest of the firstfruits
Thousands of years before the disciples received the Holy Spirit, God introduced the Feast of Pentecost to the Israelites as one of His annual feast days. On this day, the Israelites were commanded to offer “firstfruits to the LORD” (Leviticus 23:17) from their spring harvest.
Most of Israel’s crops would have been still growing and ripening at this stage of the year. As a whole, those crops weren’t ready for harvesting quite yet—but a small portion of the crop would inevitably be ready before the main harvest. This portion was known as the firstfruits. By offerings from their own crops, the Israelites shifted their attention toward the God who made the firstfruits possible in the first place.
Today God is working with spiritual firstfruits—and Pentecost points our attention toward that important truth. Today God is working with spiritual firstfruits—and Pentecost shifts our attention toward that important truth.
As a result of His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ “has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). He was the first firstfruit of God’s spiritual harvest—but not the only firstfruit. James tells us, “Of His [God’s] 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, emphasis added throughout).
Firstfruits is an important word. It shows us that we’re not dealing with a huge number of people right now, which is why Christ called His followers a “little flock” (Luke 12:32). It also reminds us that the firstfruits are harvested first. Jesus explained that, at His return, “He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31).
The fact that this moment is coming ought to change how we live and conduct ourselves from day to day, because at some point in the future, Jesus will return to gather His elect. As firstfruits, we ought to be living in a way that reflects who God is and who He called us to be.
3. The greater harvest
Another thing we can glean from the word firstfruits is both obvious and important:
Firstfruits are only part of the harvest.
God’s plan doesn’t end with the firstfruits. The firstfruits have a role to play, and Pentecost highlights that role—but God’s ultimate plan encompasses the entire human race. When Peter quoted Joel during his Pentecost message, he referred to God’s promise to pour out His Spirit on all flesh (Acts 2:17). Not just some, not just a select few, not just the elect, not just the firstfruits.
The Bible promises a day when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). God created all of mankind with the potential to both know and become like Him (1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2), and the firstfruits of Pentecost represent only an infinitesimal portion of all those who have ever lived or will ever live.
That might be the most beautiful thing about firstfruits—the implication that there’s so much more to come. God’s plan is filled with hope for the whole human race, and by turning our attention to the firstfruits, Pentecost reminds us of an even greater harvest to follow.
Pentecost is so much more than a memorial of past events—it’s also a powerful yearly reminder of all these things yet to come.