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Pentecost/Shavuot - Spiritual Birthday of the Church

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Acts. 2:4

Lecturer: Rev. Edward Daniel Brotsky, D.D.

Copyright Edward Daniel Brotsky, 1988, 1995. All rights reserved.

This message was given by Rev. Edward D. Brotsky on University of Toronto Radio, CIUT 89.5 FM on August 23, 1987. It was broadcast on the Wordspirit program as part of the series,The Bible and Prophecy: A Messianic View.

1. A Christian Holy Day has a Jewish Origin

1. "The Father's Promise" fulfilled

Q: Why do Christians annually celebrate a Jewish Festival called Shavuot or Pentecost?

EDB: Because a major event in Jewish history which became a universal blessing for all mankind, took place in the Jerusalem Temple during that harvest festival of Shavuot also called Pentecost.

It was on the first day of the week, Sunday, in the Roman Julian calendar, May 24th, in the year A.D. 30. This was also the year 3,790 in the Hebrew calendar. Christian scholars mark that historic Pentecost in Jerusalem as the "spiritual birthday of the church." (A.R. Fausset's Bible Dictionary, p. 557)

Q: Would you describe the events which took place on that day?

EDB: Firstly, we must examine the significance of the Festival itself. God had ordained for Israel a sacred calendar of three major festivals to be observed as "a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings." (Leviticus 23:14, 21, 41; Deuteronomy 16:16,17)

They are:

  1. "Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread"
  2. "the Feast of Weeks" - also called "Pentecost," a Greek translation of the Hebrew words meaning, the "fiftieth day" when the Festival was celebrated (Lev. 23:15,16).
  3. "Feast of Tabernacles"
Passover marked the first spring harvest. The first fruits of a sheaf or "omer" of barley was required by the Torah to be presented before the LORD in the House of God, as a thanksgiving "wave offering." (Lev. 23:10,11)

From the next day, seven weeks or forty-nine days were counted to wheat harvest. (Lev. 23:10:11)

On the "fiftieth day" - "Pentecost" or "Shavuot" - another harvest thanksgiving service was observed in the House of God. This time, from the firstfruit of wheat harvest, "two loaves of bread baked with leaven were waved before the LORD," in the act of thanksgiving. (Lev. 23:16-20)

These three festivals marked Israel's history in the process of their redemption.

These festivals were also prophetic and typological of the greater redemption which would come through the Messiah.

Q: What was the relationship between Passover and Pentecost?

EDB: Passover - the "Feast of Unleavened bread" - marked Israel's physical emancipation from Egyptian slavery (Exodus 12;17). "Bread without yeast" - Matzot - in fact, total abstinence from leaven in solids and liquids was commanded by God for the entire Passover week, according to Exodus chapter 12, verse 20.

The blood of the lamb upon the Israelites' doorway was the redeeming factor on that historic night of the first Passover meal. To memorialize that redemptive event, paschal lambs were sacrificed every Passover until the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70.

When Messiah came, Rabbi Saul - the Apostle Paul - wrote to the Corinthians: "Messiah our Passover lamb has been sacrificed for us." Therefore, believers were exhorted to keep the Passover of the New Covenant or Lord's Supper "not with the leaven of malice and wickedness but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." (I Cor. 5:7-8 NIV)

Pentecost stood in contrast to the Passover ritual in the House of God. Pentecost featured "two loaves of bread baked with yeast," made from the first fruit of the wheat harvest. Those two loaves were "waved before the LORD" in the act of thanksgiving (Leviticus 23:15-20 NIV). Selected animals, such as lambs, bulls and rams, were also sacrificed in the Pentecost ritual.

"Leaven" - traditionally became a type of sinful human nature. The Rabbis spoke of the "yezer ha-Ra" - that is, "the evil inclination in man's nature from birth." (Encyclopedic Dictionary of Judaica, pp. 281, 636)

Rabbi Saul who was a disciple of Gamaliel of the School of Hillel, as the Apostle Paul, made a spiritual application concerning leaven or hametz: "Get rid of the old yeast ... the yeast of malice and wickedness" (I Cor. 5:7-8 NIV), he wrote to the Corinthians.

Q: What was significant about "two leaven loaves"?

EDB: The two leaven loaves became symbolic of sinful mankind - both Jew and Gentile - as the Holy Scriptures state. (Psalm 14:2-3 cp Romans 3:9-10, 23)

Q: What was different or special about the Shavuot or Pentecost of May 24th in the year 30 C.E.?

EDB: On that day, as the priest in the House of God, the Temple, was waving the "two leaven loaves," as an act of thanksgiving for the agricultural harvest, a "promise" in prophecy was fulfilled. May I tell you about that "promise"?
Centuries earlier, the Eternal One had given to the prophets of Israel the promise of sending the Holy Spirit - Ruach Haqodesh - into the lives of Jewish believers first. Ezekiel announced that God would "pour out His Spirit upon the house of Israel." (39:29 JPSOA)

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh . . then they will . . be careful to keep My laws. (11:19 NIV)
The prophet Zechariah received God's message how the Messiah of the royal House of David would die for our sins:
I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; and they will look on Me whom they have pierced . . . (12:10 NKJV cp Ps. 22:16; Jn. 20:37)

In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants, of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness (13:1 NKJV)

The prophet Joel foretold that God promised to "pour out His Spirit upon all flesh" - a hope for believers in all nations! (Joel 3:1 JPSOA 2:28 NIV, NKJV). These promises when fulfilled would introduce a new quality of life and a new life style into society.

During the earthly ministry of Jesus "the Son of David," (Matthew 1:1; Romans 1:3; II Timothy 2:8; Revelation 5:5). He confirmed the Father's promise to His disciples:

The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things . . He will guide you into all truth . . . (John 14:26; 6:13)
And before the risen Messiah ascended back to the heavenly Father, He affirmed for the last time:
Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift My Father promised, which you have heard Me speak about ... you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:4,8 NIV)
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