Pentecost: Is Christ at the center of this feast?
In the Old Testament, the Feast of Pentecost is called the Feast of Weeks (Exodus 34:22). This is because Leviticus 23:15-16 mentions counting seven weeks (or Sabbaths) or "fifty days" from the day the wave sheaf was offered during the Days of Unleavened Bread. Thus the feast acquired the name of "fiftieth," which is what Pentecost means in the Greek language of the New Testament.
In the New Testament, 50 days after Christ had been resurrected, the first Christians were celebrating Pentecost, one of the feasts of the Lord. And, as recorded in Acts 2, what a day that was! On it they received the Holy Spirit from God. Suddenly the Old Testament Feast of Weeks had taken on a new meaning for them. The shadow of this feast had now become a reality! Pentecost would become the Church's anniversary of the receiving of God's Spirit.
Jesus Christ revealed the significance of this feast by sending the Holy Spirit to His brethren in the faith. He had told them, "Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49; compare John 16:7).
God's Spirit plays a crucial role in the life of Christians today as it did then. When a person receives God's Spirit upon repentance and baptism, that Spirit begins a process of spiritual transformation in the person's life, a transformation the Bible calls conversion (to learn more, request or download the free booklet Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion).
Through this process, we shed our own way of thinking and living and allow Jesus Christ's attitude and way of life to guide everything we do. Paul described this life-transforming change in Galatians 2:20:
"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (King James Version).
Thus we see that Jesus is at the center of the Feast of Pentecost as well. Yet the ultimate fulfillment will only be realized after He returns to earth to establish God's Kingdom, when all will have access to God's Spirit. So this feast should still be kept as a memorial and a shadow until its purpose is completely accomplished.
Do we find the first-century Church continuing to keep Pentecost? In the book of Acts, we read of the apostle Paul hurrying to be in Jerusalem to keep this feast with the brethren. "For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost" (Acts 20:16).
Even in one of Paul's epistles in which he writes so much about the gospel message, he refers to his plans to remain in Ephesus to observe Pentecost with the Church members there before traveling to Corinth.
He writes: "I do not want to see you now just in passing, for I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost" (1 Corinthians 16:7-8, New Revised Standard Version).
- excerpt from
The Biblical Festivals That Teach Us About Jesus Christ