What Is the Meaning of Pentecost?
MAY 23, 2023
We are getting ready to celebrate Pentecost week and I want to share with you what this week means.
What is the meaning of Pentecost? You need to know it was not called Pentecost until the New Testament. The original name was Shavuot (Sha-vu-ot) or Feast of Weeks.
The Feast of 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. The term Pentecost derives from the Greek word meaning “fifty.”
Initially, Shavuot was a festival for expressing thankfulness to the Lord for the blessing of the harvest. It occurred at the conclusion of the Passover and acquired the name “Latter Firstfruits.” The celebration is also tied to the giving of the Ten Commandments, with the name Matan Torah or “giving of the Law.” Jews believe that it was at this time that God gave the Torah to the people through Moses on Mount Sinai.
In Acts 1, just before the resurrected Jesus was taken up into heaven, he told the disciples about the Father’s promised gift of the Holy Spirit, which would soon be given to them in the form of a powerful baptism. He told them to wait in Jerusalem until they received the gift of the Holy Spirit, which would empower them to go out into the world and be his witnesses.
A few days later, on the Day of Pentecost, the same day that Jesus gave the Law to Moses, is the same day that God released the spirit of Grace into the world through the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. They were all together when the sound of a mighty rushing wind came down from heaven, and tongues of fire rested on the believers. 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 believers communicated in languages they had never before spoken. They spoke with Jewish pilgrims of various languages from all across the Mediterranean world.
The crowds observed this event and heard them speaking in different languages. They were amazed and thought the disciples were drunk on wine. Then the apostle Peter got up and preached the Good News of the kingdom and 3,000 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 the Feast of Pentecost. This Old Testament feast revealed “a shadow of the things that were to come.” The reality is the finished work of the Cross.
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 celebrate a joyous harvest on Shavuot, and the church celebrates a harvest of newborn souls on Pentecost.
Today we celebrate not the giving of the law, but the giving of the free gift of Grace. The true way to celebrate this week is communion of the Lord’s Supper; this is the new Passover. I know some may disagree with this statement, but you can take all the Old Testament celebrations and place them under communion. In fact, this is the celebration that Jesus asks the new convent church to remember. So, let me end by saying that if you want to celebrate this week, make sure communion is a part of the celebration. When the day of Pentecost had fully come, Grace was released to all men, Grace is the finished product, and Grace is the reason to celebrate this amazing week!