God’s festivals are more than just Jewish tradition. The three festival seasons discussed in Deuteronomy 16 provide an overview of the major steps God is taking to harvest, or save, mankind. Within these three festival seasons are seven annual festivals.
These festivals are dual in purpose. First, they show us the specific details of how God is intervening in human affairs. For example, in the spring, we learn that the first step in God’s plan of salvation—the Passover—is completed! Christ was sacrificed once to pay the penalty for sin for all mankind (Hebrews 10:10).
Second, the festivals teach us what we need to do, or what our part is in God’s plan. We must get ready spiritually for the fantastic events to come. The Days of Unleavened Bread teach us to put sin out of our lives. God devotes the first two annual sabbaths to teaching us this vital lesson. We cannot be saved if we allow sin to remain in our lives. The truly converted Christian must live a life of overcoming sin (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).
A good understanding of God’s annual festivals proves that the majority of the events in God’s master plan are yet to occur. What future event does Pentecost represent? What does this festival season and holy day teach us to do in order to get ready for this event?
Written for Our Admonition
To answer these questions, we need to review some past events that happened on this day. There are great lessons to be learned from this history. God wants us to remember these important historic events to help us prepare for our great future. “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). Paul taught the Church that the events of the past were recorded solely for our benefit. Only truly converted people can understand the significance of God’s annual festivals.
Bible history and Jewish tradition show us that the Ten Commandments were given on the day of Pentecost. The events surrounding the Eternal’s speaking the Ten Commandments were so stupendous and frightening that the people wanted only to deal with Moses. Because of the loud sound of the trumpet, lightning and thunder, the people feared for their very lives (Exodus 20:18-21). Moses showed the people that God added all of these “special effects” to impress upon the people the importance of the Ten Commandments. God wanted to ensure that the people would fear to sin. Why?
The Birth of a Nation
The giving of the Ten Commandments established the laws on which the Old Covenant was based. Through the Old Covenant, God had a great purpose for the ancient Israelites. “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel” (Exodus 19:5-6).
On the day of Pentecost over 3,400 years ago, the nation of Israel was born. It was to be God’s nation. God wanted to use the nation of Israel as an example of obedience for the entire world. God promised the Israelites untold physical blessings if they would obey the Ten Commandments. This would have shown the world that following God’s laws produces great blessings. Had Israel done it right, the whole world could have been drawn to God’s great way of life.
But Israel failed miserably in its part of the covenant. Why? Because it was a physical nation, not a spiritual one. The people did not have God’s Holy Spirit. God’s law is spiritual (Romans 7:14). Therefore, they could only obey God according to the physical dictates of the law. Even in this they failed!
We need to realize that Israel was a type of a spiritual nation to come!
The Birth of the Church
Acts 2 records for us another event crucial to our understanding of Pentecost. On Pentecost a.d. 31, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church. Similar to the first Pentecost, astounding physical “special effects” accompanied this event. There was a rushing mighty wind, tongues like fire, and each who was gathered near heard the disciples speaking in his own language (verses 2-12).
Peter explained what was taking place to the devout Jews keeping this Feast, and how these events showed God was faithful to His promises. God was beginning to extend His Holy Spirit to all flesh (see verses 16-21).
In verses 38-39, Peter limited the fulfilling of this promise for our time (Pentecost a.d. 31, up to the “Day of the Lord”) to only those whom God would specially “call,” or the Church. We need to realize that the giving of God’s Spirit was not meant to replace God’s Ten Commandments. The giving of the Holy Spirit represented God providing His Church with the means to keep the Ten Commandments!
The events of this Pentecost marked the birth of the Church—the spiritual nation of God in embryo. God expects the Church to do what the nation of Israel could not do: set an example of obedience for the world. Peter wrote to the Church, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9). However, God planned that the world would not recognize the Church as a “holy nation” until the return of Jesus Christ and the commencement of the Millennium. More on this later.
The Covenants—a Type of Marriage
The Old Covenant was made official on Pentecost. Ezekiel 16 shows that God viewed the Old Covenant as a type of marriage. On Pentecost, God actually married ancient Israel.
Israel later committed adultery by worshiping false gods and adopting pagan religious practices. The nation broke its covenant, or marriage vows, to God, giving God grounds for divorce (Jeremiah 3:8).
This gave rise to the creation of the New Covenant. “For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah” (Hebrews 8:8).
The Bible shows that the New Covenant will still be based on the Ten Commandments. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:31-33). With the New Covenant, God promises to write His laws not on tables of stone, but in the hearts of men.
The New Covenant also represents a marriage covenant. Under the New Covenant, however, the people have the ability through God’s Holy Spirit to truly keep the law as codified in the Ten Commandments. God began to introduce the New Covenant on Pentecost a.d. 31.
For the present time, this covenant is being extended only to the Church, or “called out ones” (John 6:44). The world cannot recognize the example of the Church at this time. In comparison to the vast sea of humanity, the true Church represents only a very small harvest (Luke 12:32). That is why Pentecost is also known as the feast of “firstfruits” (Exodus 34:22). Unlike the ancient nation of Israel, the Church was not meant to be a political force in this world. The Church is only the firstfruits harvest. A much larger harvest is to come at a later time. This larger harvest of humanity is represented by the fall holy days.
Another difference between the covenants is that the New Covenant will not be made official until the return of Jesus Christ.
The Marriage of the Lamb
The Church, as the spiritual nation of Israel, will marry Jesus Christ at His return. God repeatedly uses the symbol of a woman to describe the Church throughout the Bible. Paul taught that the Church was like a virgin “espoused” to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2). Under the dictates of the New Covenant, we must prove that we are willing to obey God before we enter into the marriage covenant with Christ.
Like ancient Israel, we can fail to keep the covenant. The prophecy Revelation 2 and 3 record for us is now the sad history of Church failures. We are living in the final, Laodicean era of the Church, during which most of God’s people are going the same route as ancient Israel, committing spiritual adultery. They will have to suffer invasion, captivity and death as a result. We must remain true to the covenant during this “espousal” period of time. We do this by keeping the Ten Commandments, both physically and spiritually, and by remaining true to God’s doctrine. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus Christ gave detailed teaching on how to keep the spiritual intent of the law. If we keep the law, then we will qualify to marry Jesus Christ. We must prove ourselves now!
The main lesson Pentecost teaches us is that we must prepare–individually–to marry Jesus Christ. “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7). We make ourselves ready by keeping the Ten Commandments. Peter commands the Church to grow in grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18). We can do this only through God’s Holy Spirit. And the only way we can obtain more of God’s Spirit is through obedience (Acts 5:32).
Pentecost pictures our future spiritual marriage to Jesus Christ. The entire world will rejoice at this union. This wedding ceremony will far exceed the stupendous events of former Pentecosts. “Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children” (Isaiah 66:8).
At Christ’s return, God’s Church, His holy nation, or Kingdom, will be brought to birth all at once, and the New Covenant will be made official. The Church will marry Jesus Christ. This marriage will last forever—it will never be broken! Through this union, all people remaining alive on Earth at that time will be offered access to God’s Spirit. The whole world will then be able to keep the Ten Commandments and enjoy great prosperity as a result of this obedience. But even more importantly, the nations will see the example of the Church—spiritual Israel—in action. And the whole world will understand that obedience will open up humanity’s God-given potential to enter the Kingdom of God. As Christ’s wife, we will be given the opportunity to bring many children into the Family of God.
Let’s be sure we are diligent in our preparation to marry Jesus Christ. On the day of Pentecost, let’s all rededicate ourselves to living a life of obedience to God. If we do this, we will guarantee our place in the marriage to Jesus Christ.