Saturday, May 19, 2018

Shavuot and Pentecost


A couple of posts ago, I wrote about a local, well-known Atlanta pastor who has been advocating that Christians disregard, or at the very least diminish, the Old Testament.  The post I'm writing today, as Shavuot 2018 nears, is a great illustration of why doing as he suggests is heretical teaching.

In this post, I am going to share some of the parallels between the Jewish feast called Shavuot and the Christian Sunday of Pentecost, because they are beautiful and meaningful, historically and theologically linked.  To help make these easier to read and comprehend, I'll use a compare-and-contrast format, with bullet points and different-colored fonts.

1.  When?

  • Shavuot falls 50 days to the day after the Passover Feast of Firstfruits, the Sunday Jesus arose from the dead.  The Hebrew word Shavuot means "weeks", and this celebration is often called Feast of Weeks.  (See Exodus 19:18-20, Leviticus 23:15-16 and Exodus 24:3-11.)  In 2018, Shavuot begins at dusk on May 19 and ends at dusk on May 21. 
  • Pentecost is a Greek word (pentekostos) which means "fiftieth day".  Christians celebrate Pentecost on the 7th Sunday after Easter.  Pentecost occurred when the disciples were together, celebrating Shavuot. (See Acts 2:1-4.) . 

2.  Where?

  • Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Torah to Moses, which occurred on Mt. Sinai.  
  • Pentecost also features a gift, the greater gift of the Holy Spirit.  This occurred on Mt. Zion (Jerusalem).
3.  Significance
  • The giving of Torah marks what many consider to be the day on which Judaism was born.  The word Torah means "teaching".  (The Torah is the first five books of the Old Testament.)
  • The giving of the Holy Spirit ratified the New Covenant of Jesus Christ, and marked the beginning of the worldwide Church, redeemed "from every tribe and tongue" (Revelation 5:9).  In John 14:26, the Holy Spirit is called "the teacher".
4.  Similar Signs and Wonders
  • At Sinai, there were wind, fire and smoke.  The presence of God was powerfully evident, and the people were afraid to approach the presence of God they visibly saw displayed on the mountain.
  • At Zion, there was wind and fire, but in a different, more personal way.  God manifested Himself in awesome power at Pentecost in a manner reminiscent of Sinai, except that this time, the fire of God fell upon each person present.
5.  Marked by God
  • One of the marks of the Jews was the circumcision of males, a cutting which distinguished them as belonging to Yahweh.  Also, at Sinai, the finger of God wrote on tablets of stone.
  • At Pentecost, the Spirit of God wrote on the tablets of each heart (2 Corinthians 3:3 and Hebrews 8:10).  This act of God confirmed His promise made to the prophet Jeremiah (31:31-34) and which Jesus promised to the disciples (Acts 1:4).  When a person receives Jesus as his or her personal Lord and Savior, there is figuratively a "cutting of the heart", a circurmcision of the heart, to allow the Holy Spirit to enter.  The Holy Spirit is a mark, a "cut" if you will, on each person's heart to indicate both His everlasting presence as well as the believer's eternal belonging to Jesus Christ.  This was not the case in the Old Testament.  The Holy Spirit did not dwell with each Jewish person, whether circumcised in the flesh or not. Before Jesus ascended, the Spirit of God descended on those He chose for His specific purposes.  At and after Pentecost, the ever-present Holy Spirit in the heart of every follower of Jesus Christ represents Jesus' mark of ownership.  
6.  Agriculture (Firstfruits)
  • On an additional level, the Israelites celebrated at Shavuot the gathering in of the grain harvests, by bringing crops to the Temple.  Shavuot marked the endpoint of the Firstfruits celebration, which began with the wave offering of the first grain of the harvest during Passover week.  (See http://resplendentdaughter.blogspot.com/2018/03/first-fruits.html ) At Shavuot, a more plentiful, bountiful offering was made, representative of such a bountiful harvest.
  • Jesus was raised from the dead on the Feast of Firstfruits, that Sunday which ended Passion Week. Paul referred to Him as "the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Corinthians 15:20). The 3000 souls converted to belief in Jesus Christ as Savior on Shavuot/Pentecost (Acts 2:41) represented a huge Firstfruits/Feast of Weeks offering to God.  If each Christian will allow the Spirit to do His transformative work, what is produced in each person reflects Deuteronomy 30:6.  This yielding by each person produces an all-consuming love for the Savior, down deep in the soul.  The Spirit produces, as Paul said in Gal. 6:14, a willing, daily crucifixion of one's will to the Cross of Jesus Christ, a daily dying to Self.  Further, this love for Christ produces the "fruits of the Spirit", listed in Galatians 5:22-23.  I do not believe Paul's terminology "fruits" was an accidental use of the word.  The giving of the Holy Spirit marks the completion of our Triune God's salvation plan for mankind, as well as the end of the Easter season.
These are just some of the amazing parallels between these two holy days.  For more details, feel free to read at the links I've provided below.

When we study about the history and meaning of the divinely consecrated feast of Shavuot, our understanding and appreciation of the Day of Pentecost are deepened.  Isn't it exciting to see how God's revelation of Himself 1200 hundred years earlier was mirrored and enhanced at Pentecost?  What an amazing God!

After those days, says 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 31:33 (King James 2000 Bible)
Sources:

https://forward.com/news/373541/why-do-some-christians-observe-shavuot/

http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Holidays/Spring_Holidays/Shavuot/Zion/zion.html

http://acts242study.com/they-many-parallels-of-sinai-and-pentecost/

https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/firstfruits-and-pentecost/

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