Paul said in Colossians 2:16-17 that the Jewish feasts and celebrations were a shadow of the things to come through Jesus Christ. And though as Christians we may not commemorate these holidays in the traditional biblical sense, as we discover the significance of each, we will certainly gain a greater knowledge of God's Word, an improved understanding of the Bible, and a deeper relationship with the Lord.
Pentecost - Shavuot - Feast of Weeks:
Pentecost or Shavuot has many names in the Bible (the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Harvest, and the Latter Firstfruits). Celebrated on the fiftieth day after Passover, Shavuot is traditionally a joyous time of giving thanks and presenting offerings for the new grain of the summer wheat harvest in Israel. The name "Feast of Weeks" was given because God commanded the Jews in Leviticus 23:15-16, to count seven full weeks (or 49 days) beginning on the second day of Passover, and then present offerings of new grain to the Lord as a lasting ordinance.
Shavuot was originally a festival for expressing thankfulness to the Lord for the blessing of the harvest. And because it occurred at the conclusion of the Passover, it acquired the name "Latter Firstfruits." The celebration is also tied to the giving of the Ten Commandments and thus bears the name Matin Torah or "giving of the Law." Jews believe that it was exactly at this time that God gave the Torah to the people through Moses on Mount Sinai.
Time of Observance:
Pentecost is celebrated on the fiftieth day after Passover, or the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan (May or June).
• See Bible Feasts Calendar for the actual dates of Pentecost.
The observance of the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost is recorded in the Old Testament in Exodus 34:22, Leviticus 23:15-22, Deuteronomy 16:16, 2 Chronicles 8:13 and Ezekiel 1. Some of the most exciting events in the New Testament revolve around the Day of Pentecost in the book of Acts, chapter 2. Pentecost is also mentioned in Acts 20:16, 1 Corinthians 16:8 and James 1:18.
Throughout Jewish history, it has been customary to engage in all-night study of the Torah on the first evening of Shavuot. Children were encouraged to memorize Scripture and rewarded with treats. The book of Ruth was traditionally read during Shavuot. Today, however, many of the customs have been left behind and their significance lost. The public holiday has become more of a culinary festival of dairy dishes. Traditional Jews still light candles and recite blessings, adorn their homes and synagogues with greenery, eat dairy foods, study the Torah, read the book of Ruth and attend Shavuot services.
Jesus and Pentecost:
In Acts 1, just before the resurrected Jesus is taken up into heaven, he tells the disciples about the Father's promised gift of the Holy Spirit, which will soon be given to them in the form of a powerful baptism. He tells them to wait in Jerusalem until they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, which will empower them to go out into the world and be his witnesses.
A few days later, on the Day of Pentecost, the disciples are all together when the sound of a mighty wind comes down from heaven, with tongues of fire resting on them. The Bible says, "All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them." The crowds observed this event and heard them speaking in different languages. They were amazed and thought the disciples were drunk on wine. Then Peter got up and preached the Good News of the kingdom and 3000 people accepted the message of Christ! That same day they were baptized and added to the family of God.
The book of Acts continues to record the miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit that began on Pentecost. Once again we see the Old Testament revealing a shadow of the things to come through Christ! After Moses went up to Mount Sinai, the Word of God was given to the Israelites at Shavuot. When the Jews accepted the Torah, they became servants of God. Similarly, after Jesus went up to heaven, the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost. When the disciples received the gift, they became witnesses for Christ. Jews celebrated a joyous harvest on Shavuot, and the church celebrated a harvest of newborn souls on Pentecost.
More Facts About Pentecost:
- Shavuot is one of the three pilgrimage feasts when all Jewish males were required to appear before the Lord in Jerusalem.
- One theory on why Jews customarily eat dairy foods such as cheesecakes and cheese blitzes on Shavuot is that the Law was compared to "milk and honey" in the Bible. Read more.
- The tradition of decorating with greenery on Shavuot represents the harvest and the Torah's reference as the "tree of life."
- Because Shavuot falls around the end of the school year, it is also a popular time for holding Jewish confirmation celebrations.
- More about Pentecost.