Feast of Weeks, jubilee, firstfruit, first fruit, wave sheaf, counting, omer, Passover, harvest, festival, fifty, resurrection, firstborn, firstfruits, eighth day, 8th day, Israel, exodus, pilgrimage
In New Testament times there was a controversy over the timing of the Feast of Weeks, (Heb. Shavuot) known in the Christian community as Pentecost. This was the day on which the Holy spirit, as recorded in Acts 2, was given to the followers of Yeshua the Messiah, who is generally known as Jesus Christ. This occasion had been marked for centuries before the events of Acts 2 in the Jewish community and in ancient Israel. It was one of three occasions with the Feast of Unleavened Bread (also called Passover) and the Feast of Tabernacles when all Israel was instructed to appear together to celebrate before their Creator and give thanks for their harvest. This particular day, Pentecost, was after the barley harvest at the beginning of the wheat harvest.
The controversy revolved around the instruction in Leviticus 23:15-16. This explained how to calculate the day on which Pentecost was celebrated.
‘And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. 16 Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD.’… 21 ‘And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.’
The Sabbath intended in this text that begins the counting to Pentecost is connected with the Festival of Unleavened Bread (Heb. Matstsah, commonly connected to Matzos). Leviticus 23 is all about the appointments (Heb, mo’edim), special occasions of the Creator. Within the Unleavened Bread Festival a sheaf or ‘omer’ (a Hebrew measure, Ex 16:38) of grain (typically barley) was to be offered to the Creator. It needed to be from the very first of the harvest. In order to guarantee a sheaf of the first harvested grain, the temple priests typically harvested a sheaf for this particular purpose immediately after sundown after the Sabbath. They would then have it for waving the next morning as verse 11 instructed.
Lev 23:11 ‘He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.”
The count of fifty days to Pentecost was to start with the day of this offering. However, the disagreement revolved around the meaning of ‘Sabbath’ in the above verses from which the counting began.
The Hebrew word for Sabbath primarily refers to the 7th day of the week. However, it can also refer to a mo’ed day of rest (High Sabbath) or even the whole seven days of a week. Even highly regarded Jewish/Messianic rabbis acknowledge that the surface reading of these verses would indicate it is talking of the 7th day. However, traditional Judaism now interprets the Sabbath that begins the count as the High Sabbath that begins the Festival of Unleavened Bread. Occasionally that also falls on the 7th day of the week, but not usually. The phrase ‘seven Sabbaths’ is interpreted as ‘seven weeks’. This is how the Pharisees understood it and likely how it was generally being calculated in New Testament times. Josephus assumes this method of calculation (Ant. 3.10.5). The way the calendar is now set Pentecost counted this way always falls on the 6th day of the Jewish lunar month of Sivan.
The Talmud, generally written from a Pharisee perspective, records that a group it calls Boethusians taught that the Sabbath of the count was indeed the 7th day Sabbath rather than the high Sabbath, the first day of Unleavened Bread (Tim Hegg, Counting the Omer, Pg. 2). This is in accord with the primary meaning of Sabbath (Heb; shabbath, Str. 7676) in Leviticus 23:11.
The general assumption is that these Boethusians were supporters of, or from the clan of one Simon Boethus who was high priest from roughly 24 BC. To 5 BC (Josephus Ant. 15.9.3, Ant. 20 note 19, see also Wikipedia.org Boethusians). His progeny, or in-laws occasionally were also appointed high priests for very short periods of time down as late as 64 CE/AD.
Based on their tenure in the office of high priest this clan did not have much of a grip on power. Simon’s father was a highly respected priest, but from Alexandria, Egypt. That would have put the family in the position of outsiders around Jerusalem. The Sadducees typically held the office of high priest. It seems unlikely that Simon’s legacy could have lasted very long or prevailed any at all against the Pharisees without Sadducee support. Many who research these matters assume the Boethusians were a branch of the Sadducees or equivalent to them. Some connect them with the Herodians. The Talmud tractate Yoma 19b contains comments about a Boethusian in one version (Talmud of Babylon, Neusner, 1994) and in another version (Babylonian Talmud, Dr. I Epstein, 1938) calls him a Sadducee.
Exactly when a change was made from one method of calculation to another is unknown. The Septuagint text we have actually supports the Pharisee method of calculation. So that method was not likely new with the time of Simon Boethus.
It seems there is justification for a disagreement when one calculates Pentecost based on the 7th day Sabbath within the feast of Unleavened Bread. That is evidently how the ‘Boethusians’ did it (Counting the Omer pg. 2). Occasionally the weekly Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread falls on the final day of the festival. In that case the sheaf would be cut and offered the next day, but that would put the wave sheaf offering outside the festival of Unleavened Bread.
Although the wave sheaf is not specifically commanded to be within the Unleavened Bread festival the instruction is for “When you come into the land which I give to you”. This would indicate little delay from the 10th of the first month when they crossed into the land (Josh 4:19). The instruction to wave the sheaf appears with the other appointed times of the Creator in Leviticus 23 and actually begins the harvest. Unleavened Bread is a harvest festival. The harvest began with the wave sheaf cutting. It makes little sense that harvesting could not be done during the harvest festival of Unleavened Bread because the wave sheaf could not be cut until the festival was past. Perhaps the disagreement began because of this issue.
As it turns out the account in Joshua 5:10-11 addresses exactly this matter. It records that Israel ate of the new harvest on the day after Passover. No eating of the new harvest was to be done unless the sheaf had been offered.
The Pharisees buttressed their counting method with Joshua 5:11.
“And they ate of the produce of the land on the day after the Passover, unleavened bread and parched grain, on the very same day.”
Since the Passover was on the very first day of the festival and the Pharisees understanding that the day began at sunset, considered Passover was the 15th of the month. The day after was therefore the 16th of the month. This shows that upon entry into the Promised Land Israel must have cut the wave sheaf on the 16th or they should not have been eating the produce of the land. This is not a very solid demonstration of their perspective because the 15th could have also been the 7th day Sabbath. So, from their perspective this is not a definitive example. However, Moses indicates the day after Passover was in fact the 15th of the month.
“They departed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the day after the Passover the children of Israel went out with boldness in the sight of all the Egyptians.” (Num 33:3)
Joshua 5:10 specifically puts the keeping of Passover fully on the 14th. The day after the 14th would be the 15th. Considering this, which also reflects Moses perspective, Israel in Joshua 5 then: ate the produce of the land on the 15th of the month, the very first day of the festival of Unleavened Bread. This could never happen based on either the Pharisees or the Sadducees/Boethusians calculations. The only way it could happen is if the sheaf was cut and offered not based on the Sabbath during the festival, but on the day after the Sabbath (Sunday) during the festival. The Leviticus 23:15 instruction is to ‘count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath’ for Pentecost. In fact, the first day of Joshua’s festival must have been a Sunday, the day after the weekly Sabbath. It was not the weekly Sabbath that was the pivot, but the day after the weekly Sabbath that fell in the festival that was the focus of the wave sheaf offering. Either that or Joshua and all Israel messed up on their first opportunity. Although maybe that’s not a stretch, there is no indication in scripture of that being the case.
This is the only example in the Hebrew Scriptures showing the implementation of the Leviticus 23 wave sheaf instruction. This particular example is all that is needed. It makes evident that the wave sheaf day could be the 15th and therefore the pivotal day is the day after the 7th day Sabbath, i.e. the Sunday that falls within the Unleavened Bread festival.
The Pharisees noted that Deuteronomy 16:9 also gives instructions for the counting to Pentecost. It does not define the count in terms of Sabbaths, but periods of seven.
Deu 16:9 "You shall count seven weeks<07620> for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain.”
07620 shabuwa‘ (shaw-boo’- ah ) 1) seven, period of seven (days or years), heptad, week 1a) period of seven days, a week (This is obviously from where the Hebrew name Shavuot for Pentecost comes.)
Although the main group of seven days is considered Sunday though Saturday, this could allow something other than a Sunday to Saturday week. The Pharisees evidently looked at the instruction in Leviticus 23 through this lens. However, Leviticus 23:15 talks of complete Sabbaths/weeks. ‘Complete’ would be an odd description unless the intention is to designate a day 1 through day 7 week. ‘Sabbaths’ used in Leviticus 23:15 certainly is synonymous with weeks because their week revolved around the Sabbath. What we call Sunday was often referred to literally as the ‘first to the Sabbath’. Ancient Hebrews didn’t think of a week as any seven days, but always ending with the weekly Sabbath. So while a complete week might indicate to modern English speakers a full seven days, it indicated to them a standard 1st day to 7th day week. The Feast of Unleavened Bread is always designated as being seven days in length, never a week. It didn’t typically align with a standard week.
This 1st day to 7th day perception of the week evidently continued through New Testament times although maybe not with the Pharisees. Greek has a word for a general 7 day week, ‘herdamos’. However, the authors of the New Testament never used it. They continued the practice of numbering the days relative to the Sabbath (I Cor 16:2). So while the Pharisees may have understood correctly that the sheaf should always be cut and offered during Unleavened Bread, the 16th wave sheaf solution also missed the mark. The Boethusians/Sadducees recognized the designation of the weekly Sabbath rather than High Sabbath, but did not consider that the day after the Sabbath was the pivot, not the Sabbath during Unleavened Bread.
Deuteronomy 16:9 also makes clear that the harvest was to begin on the day that started the count to Pentecost. Of course, the count started the day the wave sheaf was offered (Lev 23:11-11, 15-16). So the harvest started on the day of the wave sheaf.
Lev 23:15 ‘And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. 16 Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD.’
The counting was to take them to “the day after the seventh Sabbath”. “then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD…”. The special offering and the special Feast of Weeks, Pentecost, is to be celebrated the day after the seventh Sabbath. That is; 50 days from the start of the count, 7 *7 weeks = 49 days +1 = 50, the first day that follows the last Sabbath in the count. Using the 16th as the start of the count would mean that the 50th day would seldom be the day after a Sabbath.
There has been confusion about which day is intended as the appointed day. Deuteronomy 16:9-10 just mentions counting the seven weeks and the celebration is to be kept. Leviticus 23:15-16 mentions the seven weeks/Sabbaths count, but then instructs another day be counted. These are not contradictory to one another.
Most counts tell plainly when the desired event is to come in relation to the count. Some have been confused by the counts of Leviticus 23:15-16. Two counts are actually mentioned in these verses. The main count mentioned in both Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 16 involves the seven weeks. The parallel count is only mentioned in Leviticus 23:16. It must be understood as reinforcing the original count of seven complete weeks/Sabbaths (vs 15). Verse 16 is a parallel method of counting. The main count involves the counting of seven complete weeks. Leviticus 23:16 reinforces that Pentecost occurs on the 50th day. Keep counting ‘until’ the day after the seventh Sabbath at which time 50 days have been counted. “Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD.” (KJV). When the count reaches fifty, the offering is to be presented.
We need to remember this festival was known as the feast of Weeks, Shavuot, to ancient Israel. Their count didn’t focus on 50 days, but seven standard full weeks. Pentecost comes from a Greek name attached later. Certainly the count in verse 16 gave rise to the name Pentecost, but it is clarifying the count in verse 15. The count is to bring one “Even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath” which will be the fiftieth day, “and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD”... 21 “And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.”
Verse 16 starts with the Hebrew דעַ ‘ad’ or ‘od’. In the KJV it is translated ‘Even unto’. “Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath”. In context it indicates ‘until’. It is actually used twice in Leviticus 23:14, once translated as ‘that’ for English readability. “You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God”. It is obviously expecting the produce could be eaten the same day as the offering, but it must be after the offering. It shouldn’t be eaten until that day. In the same way the celebration of the Feast of Weeks isn’t until the fiftieth day. Once the 50th day is reached the offering is to be presented and the holy convocation assembled.
The accounts of Deuteronomy 16:9-10 and Leviticus 23:15-16 are instructing the same count. Leviticus 23 is reinforcing how to count by specifying that the 50th day is the day on which the offering is presented and it is the day that is to be proclaimed holy. Depending on how the Sunday falls during the feast of Unleavened Bread the actual date of this celebration can vary between the 5th and the 11th day of the third month.
What’s it all about?
With the counting in mind it is worthwhile to consider why this particular festival was set in this way and at this time of year. The Feast of Weeks was also known as the feast of harvest.
Ex 23:16 "and the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field;…”
Ex 34:22 "And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year’s end.”
Leviticus 23 requires unique loaves of bread to be presented to the Creator on this day. These loaves are called ‘firstfruits’. This is an obvious link with the concept of harvest.
Leviticus 23:16 “Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD. 17 You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the LORD.”
Generally leavened bread was not connected with offerings to the Creator (Ex 23:18, Lev 2:11). Leaven is often used as a metaphor for sin (I Cor 5:6-7, Mat 16:6). The Creator doesn’t get along well with sin. However, these loaves were not burned on the altar to smoke up to the Creator, but given to the Levitical priests (Lev 2:12, 23:20). This would indicate a certain disconnect between the Creator and these firstfruits. The firstfruits the Levitical priesthood touched were their responsibility. The firstfruits connection to the Creator was through the Levitical priesthood. In the same way, those who follow Yeshua/Jesus as their high priest connect to the Creator though Him(Gal 3:29, 4:7, I Cor 11:3).
Believers in Yeshua and the Gospel are considered firstfruits. Pentecost is the only appointment of the Creator that is specifically connected with the harvest of these first fruit. (Ex 23:16, 34:22).
“Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”(Jas 1:18)
Harvest beginning: the Wave Sheaf
The feast of Unleavened Bread memorializes the beginning of the harvest. The cutting and offering of the wave sheaf kicked off the barley harvest (Lev 23:10-14). This sheaf cutting was from among the very first of the harvest, typically barley. "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. 11 He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it” (Lev 23:10-11). The offering needed to be of the very first of the harvest. It was waved above the head of the priest and thus dedicated to God.
This sheaf was symbolic of the very first human produce of the kingdom, Yeshua, Savior, the Messiah. He was the first resurrected from the dead (Col 1:18). This occurred on the day after the 7th day Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Mat 28:1-7). This fits well with when the wave sheaf was cut, offered and accepted according to the instruction of Leviticus 23:11.
Still early on His resurrection day Yeshua shrank from being touched because He had not been formally accepted by the Father (John 20:17). Later that afternoon He walked until evening to Emmaus with two disciples (Luke 24:13, 15, 29). Later that evening He encouraged the disciples to handle Him and be assured who He was (Luke 24:10, 13, 15, 31, 33, 36, 39). So likely by the afternoon of that first day of the week He had been accepted by the Father. This acceptance likely happened about the time the priest waved the sheaf to be accepted.
The traditional view of the crucifixion places it on Friday afternoon. However, the sign of Messiah’s authenticity has Him three days and three nights in the tomb (Mat 12:40). Three days and three nights do not happen between Friday afternoon and Sunday before daybreak (John 20:1). Usually it is explained that three days according to the Jews of the time could mean any part of three days. This can be, but the sign given in Matthew did not indicate only three days. Three days and three nights is not equivalent to simply three days. This is important to reinforcing the Creator’s timing for the wave sheaf offering.
For Messiah to be three days and three nights in the tomb before a Saturday night (while still dark) resurrection means He would have needed to be in the tomb Wednesday evening. In that case Thursday would have been the 15th, the first day of Unleavened Bread and Friday the 16th. According to the Pharisee calculations Messiah as wave sheaf should have been accepted as the wave sheaf by the Father on Friday. The Creator is a stickler for timing. At least this author does not see Him arranging the crucifixion at the exact time the Passover lambs were being slain, but being two days late for the wave sheaf acceptance.
Harvesting first fruit of Messiah: Seven Weeks
John 4:35 "Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! 36 And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 37 For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors."
Messiah’s crucifixion set the stage for the harvest of the first fruit. 2Cor 5:15 “and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again..”
I Pet 2:24 “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness--by whose stripes you were healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
2 Cor 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”
Those who repent, i.e., change their direction to walk with their Savior have been harvested and are pressed into service reconciling and harvesting others. They have life in them and will be resurrected if they are not alive when His elect are gathered to Him.
John 5:24 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. 25 Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.”
Those who respond to Messiah’s call will be sealed for eternal life. It is just a matter of time until they receive a suitable body.
It is interesting that there are seven churches highlighted in Revelation 2 & 3. Each are given a message and briefly described. Certainly there were many groups of believers in other cities. Why these cities and why only seven? Messiah is described as being among just these seven churches (Rev 1:12-20). Certainly they represent something more than just themselves. Of course there are also seven weeks to be counted from the wave sheaf until Pentecost. Since these particular churches were on an ancient mail route and were visited one after the other, one could connect this circumstance to see the churches as representing era’s of time and/or major mentalities among the believers since the beginning of the church. The church with Yeshua as high priest evidently formally began at Pentecost in Acts 2. The messages to the churches look forward to Messiah’s return. At that time the first fruit who have overcome will all be with Messiah in spirit bodies. This will certainly be an occasion worthy of celebration. It will be the beginning of a new order immediately following the previous seven.
Messiah explained the purpose for His earthly existence to the congregation at Nazareth in Luke 4:18-19. He was ushering in the time of Isaiah 61:1-2. This text is speaking of the restoration of Israel, but Messiah used it to refer to the salvation He was preaching. The day of the Lord’s favor He mentioned is closely tied to the Jubilee and the day of His wrath (vs. 2). Israel would be given crowns of beauty (vs. 3) and be priests of Yahweh (vs. 6). The captives would also be set free (vs. 1) and their former habitation restored (vs. 4). This is the message of the Jubilee. It is also the reward of the Kingdom that comes to the first fruit at their resurrection.
In the Jubilee year all Hebrew slaves were to be freed (Lev 25:28). Everyone who had wandered from their original inheritance was to return to it (Lev 25:10). Mankind has wandered far from the inheritance their Creator originally intended for them. Seven weeks of years pass before the Jubilee. In the same way seven weeks pass before Pentecost when the first fruit will be brought back to the inheritance the Creator originally intended for them. Pentecost and the count to it is a mini Jubilee for the first fruit.
This reinforces the count to Pentecost as described above. There are seven complete 1st day to 7th day Sabbath weeks just like there are seven weeks of years to the Jubilee. Each week of the Jubilee count ends in a Sabbatical year. Each week of the count to Pentecost ends in a weekly Sabbath. The 50th year is the year of Jubilee. The 50th day is the day of Pentecost.
Firstborn and the 8th day
Ex 22:29 "You shall not delay to offer the first of your ripe produce and your juices. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to Me. 30 Likewise you shall do with your oxen and your sheep. It shall be with its mother seven days; on the eighth day you shall give it to Me."
The firstborn are to be presented to the Creator on the 8th day. Is there any connection between the firstborn and the first fruit?
Heb 12:23 “to the general assembly and church of the firstborn (plural) who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect”.
It seems believers, the first fruit, are also the firstborn. Can these people be presented on the 8th day and Pentecost too? Consider that the count to Pentecost is made up of seven complete 1st day to 7th day weeks. Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks, is the day following these seven weeks. In fact, in relation to the last week in the count, Pentecost is the eighth day. In ancient Israel the first fruit loaves were given to the Levitical priests on Pentecost.
Lev 23:17 ‘You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the LORD…20 The priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the LORD for the priest.’
Num 18:11 "This also is yours: the heave offering of their gift, with all the wave offerings of the children of Israel; I have given them to you, and your sons and daughters with you, as an ordinance forever. Everyone who is clean in your house may eat it.
The two leavened loaves of Pentecost were a wave offering. They were held up and dedicated to God but given to the priests. Messiah is the high priest of the redeemed. These first fruit are initially given to Him (Rev 14:4). Certainly this involves a resurrection of those who have died. The priest received the loaves on Pentecost. Likely Messiah as high priest will fully receive His first fruit on a future Pentecost.
Only a portion of the wave sheaf harvest was burned on the altar and sent directly to God. The rest was for the Levite priests (Lev 2:9-10). Yeshua was accepted directly by the Father (Zech 3, John 20:17). It could be that many of His disciples were considered harvested at this same time. They did not ascend directly to the Father, but were dedicated to Him and given to their High Priest, Yeshua.
Pentecost marks a new phase in the Creator’s harvest. It is a festival in gratitude for the bounty of the early first fruit harvest. It also marks the occasion when the first fruit of the Creator’s harvest are accepted before Him. The wheat of the first fruit loaves baked for Pentecost is not from any particular day of the new harvest. The waved loaves represent all the elect and faithful converted in the early harvest. They symbolize all firstfruits and their acceptance by the Creator. They are “holy to the LORD for the priest”. The loaves being waved and accepted look forward to the official dedication of the firstfruits to the Father just like the waving of the first sheaf especially represented Messiah’s dedication to the Father. The sheaf offering being unleavened, required a portion to be burnt on the altar to ascend directly to God. Messiah was represented by that portion. Pentecost is a major milestone in the harvesting of the earth by the Creator in that it dedicated those harvested to God and marked the end of the first fruit period and likely the occasion of the first resurrection.
Although the early harvest could be eaten as soon as harvested it was evidently not used immediately for general grain offerings burnt to ascend to the Creator. Although this is not mentioned in scripture it was evidently tradition that old grain was used up until Pentecost. (http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/2836007/jewish/The-Names-of-Shavuot.htm) In similar manner the first fruit are put to work on earth, but are not fully given to the priest until Pentecost.
Certainly believers make themselves servants of their High Priest now. However, Pentecost evidently pictures the closing of one phase in the harvest process. The Holy Spirit is given upon repentance, obedience and baptism. That is a function of the ongoing harvest. The Spirit is the guarantee of future acceptance into the ruling Kingdom of God (Eph 1:13-14). The next step must certainly be the acceptance by the priest/king into that kingdom. Is that not through a resurrection or change of body?
Logic would certainly put that resurrection of the firstfruits on the appointed time celebrating the harvest of firstfruits. The two loaves of bread were prepared specifically to represent the firstfruits in this festival (Lev 23:17). They were to be waved above the priest on Pentecost like the sheaf was waved during Unleavened Bread to be dedicated and accepted by God. As Messiah, the real wave sheaf, was resurrected about the time the barley sheaf was cut and He was accepted about the time it was waved and dedicated by the priest, it would follow that the first fruit elect will ascend and be accepted on the day the two loaves were waved and accepted, i.e., Pentecost, the feast of the firstfruits. The waving and giving to the priest would indicate a more direct responsibility to the Priest from that day: a new phase in the harvest of the earth. The firstfruits follow the Lamb wherever he goes.
Rev 14:4 “These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.”
Other Pentecost events
Of course, the special gift of the Spirit came to the New Testament congregation on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). This day has often been considered the beginning of the Christian church. It is His Spirit in the believer that is a type of down payment on the salvation in store for believers (Eph 1:13-14). So it seems the Creator moved on Pentecost to guarantee a people qualified for redemption to later be harvested.
According to the apocryphal book of Jubilees 6:17-19, Noah’s covenant was confirmed on this day of Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks. Pentecost was also celebrated at about the time Israel arrived at Mount Sinai. (Jubilees 6:19-21). Depending on what day of the week the first day of Unleavened Bread fell, the date to begin the count to Pentecost could vary. Since the start could vary the actual date of Pentecost could vary. It could fall from the 5th to the 11th day of the third month. Israel arrived at the base of Mount Sinai on the first day of the third month (Ex 19:1) just a few days before Pentecost. Moses went up Mt. Sinai and then brought back instruction to Israel to prepare two days for His presence on Mt. Sinai the third day. This would have brought them to at least the 4th of the third month.
Yahweh spoke the Ten Commandments on that third day. Jewish tradition holds that was a Sabbath. “Because the Shekhina did not appear on Mount Sinai until the Sabbath morn” (Shabbat Ch 9). Of course Yahweh was interrupted because the people were frightened to death. Moses alone heard the judgments(Ex 20:21). He then told them to the people who agreed. It was the next day when He built an altar and confirmed the covenant with the people (Ex 24:3-8). That then would have been the 50th day, Pentecost. This fits well with the Exodus and Jubilees account.
So likely the Creator gave Israel His Law on this occasion of Pentecost, officially confirming it on the day of the festival. It is the basis for how humans were to live and relate to their Creator and each other. On the Pentecost of Acts 2 the congregation received a special sign indicating the gift of the spirit that would better help the keeping of His laws. It is evidently also a memorial remembering His promise not to destroy mankind again: those that would become the first fruit.
I Cor 15:22 “For even as in Adam all die, so also in the Christ all shall be made alive, 23 and each in his proper order, a first-fruit Christ, afterwards those who are the Christ's, in his presence.<3952>” (YLT)
It is interesting that many references that appear to be talking of the coming of Messiah don’t describe it with a word that primarily means ‘coming’. Instead they describe it with ‘parousia’ (Str 3952) a word that primarily means ‘presence’.
Mat 24:27 "For as the lightning comes<1831 exerchomai > from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming < parousia, presence> of the Son of Man be…30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming <2064 erchomai > on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. 32 Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near--at the doors!" What ‘is near- at the door’? Consider that Messiah is answering “what will be the sign of Your coming <presence>, and of the end of the age?" (Vs 3). He is still talking of His coming in verse 42, 44 even to 25:13. His coming is taking place. His presence is at the door. Is there something about His arrival that is distinct from His presence?
The end of the age most likely involves the final purging of the wicked which is after His kingdom is firmly established (Mat 13:39-40). That would be much later. However, Yeshua talks of ‘the end’ in verses 6, 13 & 14. This seems to be in answer to the disciples question in verse 3. Also the similar account beginning in Mark 13:3 has the disciples asking only about the times of the destruction of the temple (vs 2). Yeshua seems to answer that question, but continues through to the resurrection of the faithful. So, based on the account in Mark and Messiah’s response in Matthew 24 and Mark 13 the disciples question is not really about the ‘end of the age’, but the end of man’s rule. That would be followed immediately by the beginning of Yeshua’s.
I Thes 4:15 “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming <presence> of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
Note that there are two different phases to this harvest. One includes those actually resurrected. The other includes those who are still alive and are caught up to be with Messiah in the air. Remember there were two loaves that were firstfruits prepared for Pentecost. That suggestion is probably as good as any other.
The assumption is easy to make that once Messiah comes in the clouds that He will not stop until He plants His feet on the Mount of Olives. Yet there is no direct connection between Him on the Mount of Olives and the resurrection. The resurrection is tightly connected to His presence and arrival in the clouds (Mat 24:30-31 above). There are indications that His ‘presence’ will include some length of time before He plants His feet on the Mount of Olives.
The Resurrection and Presence
Revelation 14:1-4 indicates 144 thousand firstfruits, the redeemed, are gathered together and will be with the Lamb of God, Messiah on Zion. Mt. Zion is the name of the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb 12:22). It appears that for some time while these firstfruits are with Messiah, He has not yet taken full control of the earth, but may be easily visible in the clouds.
Rev 14:1 “Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.…4 These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.”
Certainly this 144 thousand are the same 144 thousand servants of God sealed in their foreheads in chapter 7. They were sealed before the worst of the tribulation occurred on the earth (Rev 7:3). So while the trumpet plagues are being released (Rev 8:6-11:15) they are protected in place. Not so, a great multitude that is described immediately after the 144 thousand (Rev 7:9). However, with this last trumpet plague Messiah takes power and the first fruit saints are about to receive their reward. Being with Messiah would certainly be part of that. This last trumpet sounding is the last indication of a trumpet in Revelation playing a part in the unfolding of events. We’ll see the resurrection takes place at the ‘last trumpet’.
Rev 11:15 ‘Then the seventh [last trumpet] angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!"… 17 saying: "We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come, Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.18 The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, And the time of the dead, that they should be judged, And [yes!] that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, And those who fear Your name, small and great, And should destroy those who destroy the earth."’. Could this event be far removed from the resurrection? Does the reward of His servants, the saints, not include a resurrection? This is not likely the time all the dead are judged (Rev 20:5, 12). Actually, the time of the dead mentioned in verse 18 may be intended in parallel with the rewarding of the saints. This is likely immediately intending only the judgment of the saints. The main period of judging comes after 1000 years (Rev 20:12).
Note as well that the mystery of God is finished about the time of the seventh trumpet. “but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets.”(Rev 10:7) That seventh, and last, trumpet sounds in Revelation 11:15 quoted above. Certainly a part of that mystery is the changing of the Saints physical bodies to spirit bodies. I Cor 15:51 “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed--52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
If the mystery is finished it would indicate the resurrection must have occurred or will imminently. The resurrection is to take place at the last trumpet (I Cor 15:52). The seventh trumpet is the last to sound. That is the time frame with which we are dealing in Revelation 11:15.
Also note that apparently immediately before or at the sounding of the seventh (last) trumpet the two witnesses are resurrected and then called up to heaven. Rev 11:11 “Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up here." And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.” Do they ascend before the rest of the dead? Do they have their own resurrection, before the first? If they ascend before the first resurrection it certainly must be only a short time before.
The placement of this account of the two witnesses with the sixth angel would indicate they are fully part of the sixth seal. However, it is possible that the account appears as it does because the two witnesses will begin their service just before the seventh trumpet sounds. While the first fruit are seen in Zion there is evidently a final effort to warn men to repent and worship the Creator (Rev 14:6-7). Perhaps the two witnesses are part of this effort. The two witnesses’ warning is to last 1260 days, about 3.5 years (Rev 11:3). This is also about the length of time the beast will persecute the remnant before he is captured (Rev 13:5, 7). Perhaps the two witnesses witness exclusively before the seventh angel sounds, but perhaps their warning begins just before he sounds and continues afterward.
After this seventh and last trumpet, chapter 12 gives a summary of the highlights of the New Testament church. The male child is obviously the Messiah who is to rule (12:5). The child’s mother hides in the ‘wilderness’ for 1260 days (vs. 6, literally 3.5 years or 1260 years). This is evidently a period of time in the middle ages when true believers were keeping a very low profile in remote areas. A day can represent a year (Num 14:34, Isa 34:8, 61:2, Eze 4:6).
Messiah’s power to establish control on earth is evidently in place as of Rev 12:10. “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.” (Mat 24:30-31 describes Him using that power and gathering His elect.) Apparently, the fully faithful elect of Messiah, pictured as a woman (Rev 12:14-16), is taken out of the reach of Satan, the dragon (Rev 12:9), who is now relegated to the earth. So Satan goes after the rest of the congregation that is generally keeping the commandments and preaching the return of Messiah, but evidently not really very zealous toward their Creator (Rev 12:17, 3:15-16). Those taken out of Satan’s reach will be protected for 3.5 years (Rev 12:14). The remnant left will evidently be severely persecuted also for the bulk of 3.5 years (13:5, 7, 12:17). Where could the elect go that would be beyond the reach of Satan for 3.5 years?
Consider that Rev 12:5 talks of the Messiah being spirited away from Satan. Certainly that happened after His crucifixion, as a result of His resurrection. Could it be the woman, represents all the fully faithful elect, dead and alive? Just as Messiah was taken up to the throne of God so will the fully faithful elect be protected in a similar way. This is the time “the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come” (vs 10) Messiah comes in power at the resurrection. “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming <2064 erchomai > on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Mat 24:30-31). This enables the redeemed to be with Messiah in Mt. Zion as described in Rev 14:1-5. This is a place not just of protection but training as well (Rev 12:14).
Rev 12:14 “But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished<5142> for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. 15 So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. 16 But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.”
Consider what it means to be ‘nourished’. Strong’s word 5142, trepho, I. thicken or congeal a liquid, II. usually, cause to grow or increase, bring up, rear, esp. of children bred and brought up in a house, IV. bring up, rear, educate, (Liddell & Scott Lexicon) Sample: Luke 4:16 “So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up <5142>. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.”
The dead believers are raised as the seventh angel, sounds with possibly the two witnesses raised shortly before . Those alive are taken up shortly thereafter. The presence of Messiah, His kingdom and His power are come, but Messiah doesn’t yet move to take full control. The redeemed are matured, ‘congealed’ and trained in the ways of the house of God for about 3.5 years, i.e. a time, times and half a time. It is not a full half year from Pentecost to the Day of Trumpets when, the general understanding is that, the real battles take place and Messiah actually takes control. If a couple 13 month lunar years occurred in that time it could make the total time fairly close.
Chapter 13 describes a world ruling beast power that comes to power about the time the faithful are removed by great eagle’s wings and/or after the events ending chapter 11. As the elect are protected 3.5 years, so this power is given authority for 42 months (3.5 years) including direct persecution of the saints (Rev 12:14, 17, 13:5, 7). Certainly this is describing the same persecution of the remnant (Rev 12:17, 13:7, 15, Dan 7:25). It is therefore 42 months later when the Beast is captured (Rev 19:20). It must be the same 42 months, 3.5 years, that the elect are protected and nourished.
The 144 thousand were “redeemed from among men”. Certainly some of these had been dead and were resurrected rather than just changed like the faithful living. When they are sealed in Revelation 7 it appears they are all alive. They are apparently sealed for special protection from coming catastrophe. They are also the only ones designated as firstfruits in Revelation. The first fruit must certainly include the faithful who died. So the implication that all are alive in Revelation 7 does not seem a perfect fit, but given the vagaries and metaphorical nature of prophesy, the implication of Revelation 7 does not invalidate the connection between the two groups of 144 thousand.
Mat 24:37 "But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming <presence> of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 "and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming <presence> of the Son of Man be. 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.”
The presence of Messiah, is evidently not a single 24 hour event. He comes in power and the elect will be gathered to Him at the last trumpet (Mat 24:31, Rev 11:15, 17, 12:10). It is also the time to reward the prophets, saints and all His elect (Rev 11:18). However, many events are yet to occur before human rule is eliminated. The beast is still given about 3.5 years to exercise authority on earth (Rev 13:5). The elect will also be taken from harm’s way for training for about 3.5 years (Rev 12:14). The elect are with Messiah while the remnant is tried. Besides other miscellaneous (Rev 14:6-18) events there is another witness to the peoples of the earth and at least seven more plagues that must occur (Rev 15:1).
Feet on Mt. of Olives
Although not really a function of Pentecost it might be helpful to highlight a bit more a significant time gap between the first fruit being with Messiah in Zion and Messiah’s arrival on the Mount of Olives. The last trumpet sounds in Revelation 11:15. The first fruit are shown with Messiah in Zion in Chapter 14:1-5. Seven angels with seven bowl plagues follow that (Rev 15:1, 7, 16:1). It is the sixth of these plagues that sets the stage for Messiah’s arrival on the Mount of Olives.
Rev 16: 12 ‘Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared… 14 For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. 15 “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame." 16 And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon.‘
Zech 14:1 “Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, And your spoil will be divided in your midst. 2 For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; The city shall be taken, The houses rifled, And the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, But the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3 Then the LORD will go forth And fight against those nations, As He fights in the day of battle. 4 And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south.” It seems reasonable to assume this split will be connected with a large earthquake. This account doesn’t really have anything in common with the resurrection quotes above, but it does with Revelation 16.
Rev 16:17 Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, "It is done!" 18 And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth. 19 Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. 20 Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.”
If we assume Revelation is generally in time order this battle is being prepared after the firstfruits are in Zion, the city of God (Rev 14:1-5, Heb 12:22). Yet it is before the marriage of the Lamb (Rev 19:7). The Beast is given authority over the nations 42 months (Rev 13:5). He is not eliminated until Revelation 19:20, which would logically be 42 months later.
Rev 19:17 “Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, "Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, 18 that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great. 19 And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. 20 Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. 21 And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.”
This appears to be the great battle that is being assembled in Zech 14:2 and Rev 16:14, 16. It appears to follow the last of the seven bowl plagues of wrath (Rev 16:17). The nations will be subdued and Satan bound. Since the Beast is bound this must be about three and a half years after Revelation 13-14 where he is given 42 months.
One would expect the resurrection of the first fruit to be a joyous occasion. Pentecost is a joyous occasion. This time of battle seems to have no sense of joy connected to it. This battle is more likely connected to the day of Trumpets, ‘Yome Teruah’ (also Rosh HaShanah).
Am 5:18 “Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! For what good is the day of the LORD to you? It will be darkness, and not light. 19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion, And a bear met him! Or as though he went into the house, Leaned his hand on the wall, And a serpent bit him! 20 Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light? Is it not very dark, with no brightness in it?” (see also Isa 34:8, Joel 2:31, 11, Acts 2:20, Isa 13:6, Zeph 1:14, Mal 4:5)
Fully 8th day
The ultimate presentation of the firstborn to the Father takes place after Messiah’s 1000 year reign and the elimination of Satan (Rev 21:4, 20:10, 14, I Cor 15:24-28). That occasion is a direct fulfillment of the 8th day after the seven day joyous festival of Tabernacles, the time of the great harvest. However, the 8th day likely also is not a particular calendar day. More likely it is an extended period of time, like the seven day Festival of Tabernacles is generally understood to represent 1000 years.
Since the Creator confirmed His law to Israel on Pentecost and then gave His spirit to be in His believers to help them understand and keep it on Pentecost, it seems likely that He will come in bodily form (Rev 21:1) to be with them on the same occasion, i.e., Pentecost. In that case the seven week count could be considered equivalent to the seven days of Tabernacles leading to the 8th day/Pentecost.
Consider that the Sinai covenant instructed that no leaven was to be included with an offering to the Creator. "You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread; nor shall the fat of My sacrifice remain until morning” (Ex 23:18). Leaven often represents sin. The leavened loaves were dedicated to God, but were given to the priest. Even so, the resurrected elect are dedicated to God, but given to Messiah for a period of examination and testing. Those proven faithful, which we expect to be all, will have proven themselves unleavened, without sin. They will qualify to be turned over to the Father with the rest of Messiah’s kingdom during the fulfillment of the 8th day (I Cor 15:24-28, Rev 21:3-4). Perhaps the official fulfillment of this will be during the greater 8th day on a Pentecost.
Caution: Understanding prophesy does not guarantee one will receive protection from the hazards of the future. Only our relationship with our Savior might do that. He will be a friend to those who do His will (John 15:14). He expects us to respond appropriately to His graciousness in forgiving our errors.