Fifty days after Passover, during the Day of Pentecost, Acts 2 tells us that the Holy Spirit came down and was poured out on ‘all flesh’ in fulfillment of Joel 2. While Western churches don’t make much of this event, for Eastern Orthodox churches, this three-day feast is one of the most important religious celebrations, second only to Easter.
In the Jewish calendar of religious holidays, the Feast of Weeks (aka Shavout or Pentecost) is directly linked to Passover and the exodus from Egypt. Because it occurred 50 days after Passover, the Jews of Jesus’ day called it ‘Pentecost’, meaning ‘fiftieth day’. This “Festival of Weeks” (Num 28:26) commemorated God giving the Law to Moses and the Children of Israel committing themselves to be God’s people. It occurred at the end of the grain harvest, and was considered the closing event of the 50-day Passover season.
The Shavout/Pentecost celebration is one of 3 feasts that required every male Jew to travel to Jerusalem. (This explains why so many foreigners were in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, btw.) During the existence of the Temple in Jerusalem, the offering would consist of at least 2 loaves of bread made from the first harvest. For farmers, this was a special event indeed. They began weeks earlier by using a reed to mark the first budding fruits of the various species of their fruit crop. When the specially marked fruits were ripe, they would be gathered, placed in decorated baskets on decorated oxen, and led in a grand procession to Jerusalem. Along the way, villagers would greet the procession with music, parades and all manner of excitement. At the Temple, each farmer would present his “Bikkurim” in accordance with Deut 26:1-10, and would recount the story of Jacob’s oppression by Laban, all the way through to the Egyptian oppression, God’s deliverance in the Exodus, His giving of the Law, and how God sustained them and brought them to the Promised Land.
One wonders why the Holy Spirit was sent on Pentecost, the day that the Jews celebrated the Law coming down from God. Perhaps this chart will illustrate the significance of this day.
|Old Testament||New Testament|
|Date 1||Nisan 14, 1446 BC||Nisan 14, 30 AD|
|Event||Death of Passover lamb and Children of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt||Beginning of death of Christ and salvation of God’s people from sin|
|Significance||God’s people freed from the Egypt/World||God’s people freed from sin/death|
Holiday #2: 1 Day Later
|Name:||Unleavened Bread||Unleavened Bread|
|Event:||Week-long removal of leaven from home||Week-long avoidance of touching by human hands|
|Significance:||Symbolism of sin removed||Believers made righteous before God|
Holiday #3: 3 Days Later
|Name:||FirstFruits||Resurrection / Easter|
|Event:||Brought up out of sea and touched Rock on other side of Red Sea 2 Israelites are secured on that rock.||The Rock of Ages raised from the dead as the firstfruits of our resurrection (1 Cor 15:20). The church is built on this Rock.|
|Significance:||Egypt conquered||Death conquered|
Holiday #4: 50 Days Later
|Name:||Feast of Weeks / Pentecost / Shavuot||Pentecost|
|Event:||Law comes down from Mountain||Holy Spirit comes down from Heaven|
|Significance:||God’s people are given a specific Law that contains both blessing and curse from God (Josh 8:34; Neh 10:29). If they love the Lord and keep His law, they will be blessed and live. If they don’t, they will be cursed and killed (Deut 30:15-20). Because they are unable to keep it, the Law is actually a curse (Dan 9:11; Gal 3:10).
In short, this is the day of the Law; the day of the Curse. The ministry of death.The congregation is guided by fire hovering over the tabernacle.
3,000 killed following Aaron’s worship
|God’s people are given the Holy Spirit – a new ‘law’ written on their hearts, by the Spirit who gives life (John 6:63; 2 Cor 3:1-8; Rom 8:2). They are now able to keep God’s law and live (Jer 31:31-34; Ezek 36:25-27; Titus 3:3-6; Heb 8:10).
In short, this is the day of Grace; the day of Blessing. The ministry of a new covenant of life.The congregation is guided by fire hovering over the individual.
3,000 saved following Peter’s preaching
1: The years may be off by a few, give or take, but the day, Nisan 14, is the same. It’s the 14th day of the first month of the Jewish calendar (Nisan).
2: We’re not told how long it took for the Children of Israel to reach the other side of the Red Sea, but if the RS crossing was indeed the Bitter Lakes (north-most tip of left fork of the Red Sea), then 3 days is certainly appropriate (Num 33). This calendar date also has interesting ties to Noah’s ark coming to rest on the rock of Ararat, and the resurrection of Christ. All 3 events have similar typological significance, and all (except possibly the Red Sea item) happen on the exact same calendar day of the year.