Ten days after Jesus’ ascension was The Day of Pentecost. On this day, Jesus’ disciples were gathered together in Jerusalem as well as many Jewish “devout men, from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5).
The Setting of Pentecost
In order to better understand the significance of Pentecost we need to understand what it is and how it relates to other Jewish feasts that occurred around this time.
The Passover is a 1-day feast celebrated on the 14th day of the 1st month (Nisan) according to the Jewish calendar. This day served as a reminder of God delivering His people from slavery in Egypt. It specifically commemorates the final plague when the destroying angel passed over the Jewish houses (the ones that had blood on the mantle according to God’s command) but came upon the firstborn son in the Egyptian houses. Passover is a feast of salvation in which a sacrifice was made that satisfied the wrath of God.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread
The Feast of Unleavened Bread is a 7-day feast celebrated in conjunction with Passover. Officially, it begins the day after Passover (Lev 23:6) but over time it came to start on the day of Passover (Mark 14:12) and the whole week would be referred to as “the Passover Festival” (John 13:1). This feast reminded the Jewish people of the exodus out of Egypt. The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were to be eaten “dressed for travel, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. You are to eat it in a hurry; it is the Lord’s Passover” (Ex 12:11). This feast reminded people that they are to be holy unto the Lord.
The Feast of Firstfruits (Easter)
The Feast of Firstfruits is a 1-day feast celebrating the beginning of the harvest (“first fruits”). After the Jews entered the Promised Land, they were to have a feast “on the day after the Sabbath” of the first month (Nisan) during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Priest would wave a sheaf of grain before the Lord and sacrifice a 1-year old lamb without blemish. This feast reminded people that all they have belongs to the Lord and that they should honor Him with the first of their blessings. The Feast of Firstfruits corresponds with Easter. This is intentional as Jesus is the first to rise from the dead (Acts 26:23) and is the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15:20).
The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost)
The Feast of Weeks is a 1-Day feast celebrating the summer wheat harvest. The Lord was very specific that this feast must occur “seven complete weeks, starting from the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the presentation offering. You are to count 50 days until the day after the seventh Sabbath and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord” (Lev 23:15-16). Two loaves baked with leaven are brought from each house and presented with burnt offerings to the Lord. This feast commemorated the spring harvest and the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai (Ex 19).
The Significance of Pentecost
Having discussed the setting of Pentecost, let us now turn our attention to the significance of Pentecost. With Pentecost the Church celebrates the giving (indwelling) of the Holy Spirit to the first disciples of the Church and as a result the Holy Spirit’s indwelling of Christians when they believe and are saved.
The Blessing of the Holy Spirit
It is worthy of note that the disciples did not immediately obey Jesus’ command to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:18-20). This was not a failure on their part but because Jesus told them to “stay in [Jerusalem] until you are empowered from on high” (Luke 24:49). In Acts 1:4, “He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise.” He continued, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The Lord specifically chose this day to pour out His Spirit upon His people and empower them for His gospel mission. After the Spirit filled the disciples, Peter stood up and proclaimed to the crowd a powerful message of salvation through Jesus Christ. He said, “Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
The Blessing of the New Covenant
As we learned earlier, the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) commemorated the day when God gave the Law of Moses on Mt Sinai. In the Old Covenant, the Law was written upon tablets of stone. In the New Covenant, the Law is written upon our hearts. The writer of Hebrews (Heb 10:16-17) quoted the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 31:33-34) saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them, then He adds, their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” The Holy Spirit is called the Helper (John 16:7). Jesus said the Holy Spirit’s role is to “convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). The Holy Spirit provides us gifts to edify the Church and “works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills” (1 Cor 12:11). The “manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profits of all” (1 Cor 12:7).
“Because Jesus poured out the Spirit at Pentecost, we receive the benefits of His death and resurrection, including the new birth. Moreover, the Spirit unites us to Christ and His church.” – ESV Systematic Theology Bible Notes