Pentecost marked the giving of the Holy Spirit and the founding of the Church of God. What does this harvest festival show about God’s plan of salvation?
Jesus’ crucifixion on Passover was a pivotal event in history. And just over seven weeks later, another watershed event occurred on the Feast of Pentecost, representing the third step in God’s plan of salvation.
Pentecost in the Bible
“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; for more about the miracle of speaking in tongues, see the article “What Is Speaking in Tongues?”).
During His ministry, Jesus Christ had told His disciples about the power of His Holy Spirit that they would need and would receive. By faithfully obeying God’s command to gather on His feasts, they were ready to receive this miracle.
God used the accompanying miracles to draw a large crowd to hear Peter preach a powerful sermon:
“‘Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.’ Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’
“Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. …’
“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2:36-38, 41).
Pentecost and the Holy Spirit
Even after deciding to repent and turn from sin, we find we need additional help. And that help comes through the Holy Spirit.
It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that our minds can be renewed and our lives transformed.It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that our minds can be renewed and our lives transformed (Romans 12:2). The Holy Spirit allows the perfect laws of God to be written in our hearts and minds (Hebrews 8:10).
The “love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5). Later in the letter to the Romans Paul showed that this love fulfills all the commandments, since the 10 Commandments actually define how to love our neighbors and love God as He wants to be loved (Romans 13:8-10).
The beginning of the Church
Even though God called 3,000 to the Church of God on its first day, the growth hasn’t always been that fast. In fact, God says the Church is just a little flock and a group of firstfruits of His harvest (Luke 12:32; James 1:18).
Only those God the Father calls can become part of His Church now (John 6:44). But that doesn’t mean that the vast majority of humanity is lost forever. As we will see in this series about the meaning of all seven of the “feasts of the LORD,” God has a plan to call every person at the time that is best for that person.
What is the Church’s role in the plan of salvation?
Members called to God’s Church now are not just called to receive salvation for themselves. The Church of God has a job to do, to preach the good news of the Kingdom of God and help members prepare to serve in that Kingdom (Matthew 24:14; 28:19-20).
So Church members are not only firstfruits of the Kingdom, but workers preparing for the great fall harvest season. This was foreshadowed in the Old Testament observance that came to be called Pentecost.
Pentecost in the Old Testament
The Bible teaches that there are seven “feasts of the LORD” and they are all listed in Leviticus 23. Verses 15-16 tell how to know when to celebrate this festival. Starting with “the day after the Sabbath” during the Feast of Unleavened Bread when a wave sheaf was offered, “seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath.”
This passage doesn’t give the name of the festival, but we find it called the Feast of Weeks in Exodus 34:22, Numbers 28:26 and Deuteronomy 16:10.
Feast of Weeks
In the Old Testament this festival was called the Feast of Weeks because seven weeks had to be counted to determine its date. And what does Pentecost mean? It’s the Greek name of the festival, meaning “the fiftieth day” (Thayer’s Greek Definitions). So both names refer to the counting necessary to determine the date of this festival.
All of the other festivals have a set calendar date, but according to the Bible, the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) is counted. Learn more about this in our article “What Does Pentecost Mean?”
The Feast of Weeks was also called “the Feast of Harvest” in Exodus 23:16, because it was associated with firstfruits—the early part of a harvest and the first harvest of the year in the land of Canaan.
As Numbers 28:26 says, “Also on the day of the firstfruits, when you bring a new grain offering to the LORD at your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work.”
Why is Pentecost important?
As mentioned earlier, firstfruits represent servants of God now preparing the way of the larger harvest to come in the future. God gives gifts to His servants to help them in fulfilling their part in His plan of salvation. Pentecost reminds us of several of those gifts, such as:
- The Holy Spirit, the spirit of “power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7) that allows us to produce godly fruit (Galatians 5:22-23) and for God’s laws to be written in our hearts and minds (Hebrews 8:10).
- The Church of God, “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15), the fellowship that encourages “love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24-25) and the Body that fulfills the commission to preach God’s good news (Mark 16:15).
Pentecost provides the Christian firstfruits their opportunity for salvation, and it prepares the way for the next steps in the plan of salvation. Read about the fourth step in God’s plan in our article about the Feast of Trumpets.
When is Pentecost?
Pentecost in 2023 is May 28. Pentecost in 2024 is June 16, and in 2025 it is June 1. For future years see our “Festival Calendar.”