Chapter 2

What You Should Know About Pentecost

From the booklet Pagan Holidays—or God’s Holy Days—Which?
By Herbert W. Armstrong

Is this the only “day of salvation”? Most churches generally teach that all who die “unsaved,” or do not “get saved” before the Second Coming of Christ, can never receive salvation.

They assume there is a great contest in progress between Christ and Satan. They believe Christ came to save the world, and by means of all these churches, through which He is desperately trying to “get the world saved.”

On the other hand, the clever deceptive devil is doing all he can to prevent people from being “saved.” And they seem to believe there is a time limit on the contest.

We are now near the time for the Second Coming of Christ, but when Christ returns to Earth in person He will find Himself helpless—utterly unable to save the world from Satan’s clutch—because then “it will be too late.” “Probation will be closed,” as one denomination expresses it.

This paganized teaching represents Satan as far more powerful than God.

The Answer Revealed

The New Testament Church of God was founded on a Sunday. It started on the annual sabbath day called “Pentecost,” or “feast of firstfruits.” Also called the “feast of weeks.”

The New Testament Church continued, year after year, to keep this annual sabbath, Pentecost, as we shall show.

And God gave this festival to His people in order to reveal, and to keep them continually informed, that the present dispensation is only the first, preliminary “harvest of souls.”

As already explained, God’s purpose in giving His Church His annual holy days was to keep His children constantly in true understanding of God’s great plan.

To accomplish this, God took the yearly material harvest seasons in ancient Israel as the picture of the spiritual harvest of souls.

In the Holy Land there are two annual harvests. First, is the spring grain harvest. Second, comes the fall harvest. God intended His holy days to picture to His Church repeatedly year by year the fact that only those He Himself calls during this age can become His begotten children now! And we are merely the firstfruits of the great spiritual harvest!

The Wave Sheaf

But let us continue in the central passage which summarizes all the holy days—Leviticus 23.

Here we find all of God’s festivals proclaimed holy convocations, in the one chapter. First is the weekly convocation day, the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week. Then, beginning verse 4, follows a list of the annual festivals, also commanded assemblies, “which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.”

First of these is the Passover, followed by the Days of Unleavened Bread with the two annual sabbaths. Beginning verse 9, we find instructions for the wave-sheaf offering. The Israelites were not allowed to harvest any of the early grain crop until this day (verse 14). Then, on the day following the weekly Sabbath, in a solemn ceremony of the Levitical priesthood (the rituals were mere substitutes and therefore not practiced today), the first sheaf of grain was cut. This event always occurred during the Days of Unleavened Bread (see Joshua 5). The sheaf was then brought to the priest. The priest solemnly waved it before the Eternal to be accepted for them.

This pictures the resurrected Christ ascending to heaven to be accepted by His Father as the very first human to be actually born of God—the firstfruit of the first harvest of souls! By comparing John 20:17 with Matthew 28:9, you will see that Christ presented Himself before the Father on the morning after His resurrection the previous evening (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23; Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15, 18). This fulfillment of the wave-sheaf offering actually occurred on Sunday, the morrow after the Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread.

How to Figure Pentecost

Next comes Pentecost. The word Pentecost is a Greek word, used in the New Testament, but not in the Old. It signifies “fiftieth (day).” In the Old Testament this feast is called “feast of firstfruits,” and “feast of weeks.”

Notice the properly translated plain instruction beginning Leviticus 23:15: “And ye shall count unto you from [on, or beginning with] the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days …” (verses 15-16). And that 50th day is Pentecost!

“And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations” (verse 21).

All other holy days or festivals come on definite days of definite months. But this one annual sabbath must be determined by counting. It is very simple and plain.

It is of very grave importance that we figure the right day. This day, and this only, is made holy by the Eternal Creator. Suppose at the same time the Church of God was founded, the apostles had miscounted. And “when the day of Pentecost was fully come” (Acts 2:1) they, instead of being all with one accord in one place, were in discord, some having observed the day preceding, and some waiting until the following day!

The Pharisees, who gained complete control of Jewish religious observances shortly after the middle of the first century a.d., figured (incorrectly—that is, from the wrong starting point) beginning with the day after the first annual sabbath.

Before that time, however, the high priests of the family Boethus, who were Sadducees, had been in control of matters concerning the festivals in Jerusalem. The Boethusians always counted beginning with the morrow after the weekly Sabbath, the day we call Saturday, which fell within the Days of Unleavened Bread. This historical information has been preserved for us in the Mishna, which was set in writing about a.d. 200: “The Boethusians say: ‘The cutting of the sheaf does not take place at the end of the day of the feast [the first of the seven Days of Unleavened Bread], but only at the end of the next regular Sabbath’” (Menahoth, 10, 3).

This practice had been handed down among the priests from generation to generation. And their method of counting was done as long as they remained in control of the temple and its rituals. Samaritans and Karaites (Jewish sect dating from the eighth century a.d.) have also continued to count from the weekly Sabbath, the seventh day of the week.

On a Sunday

Starting then to count from the offering of the wave sheaf, with that Sunday as day number one, we will always come out on another Sunday—but not always on the same day of the month. It is something which must be “counted” each and every year. Neither in the Hebrew (or biblical) calendar, nor in the Roman calendar which is commonly used today, can the day of Pentecost ever become fixed on a set day of the month.

Quoting again from the Mishna, and speaking about the traditional practice which had been followed in Jerusalem before the Pharisees took complete control, “[The Boethusians say:] Pentecost always falls on the day after the Sabbath” (Chagigah, 2, 4).

This makes very clear the meaning of the last part of Leviticus 23:15 and the beginning of verse 16: “[S]even sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days ….”

Deuteronomy 16:9

A second and perhaps for some a simpler instruction for counting to Pentecost is found in Deuteronomy 16:9-10: “Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn. And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks [Pentecost] ….”

This means of counting is also referred to in Numbers 28:26: “Also in the day of the firstfruits [Pentecost], when ye bring a new meat offering unto the Lord, after your weeks be out, ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work.”

Because seven weeks were counted, the festival of Pentecost was also known as the “feast of weeks” (Deuteronomy 16:10).

Meaning of Pentecost

Passover symbolized Christ’s sacrifice for the remission of our sins, and the Days of Unleavened Bread the putting away of sin. Pentecost pictures the first part of the spiritual harvest—the calling out of the Church—the called-out ones—which, for the New Testament dispensation, began on Sunday—Pentecost, June 17, a.d. 31. On that day the Holy Spirit came to dwell within flesh, as prophesied by Joel.

On the 50th day (Pentecost) in Old Testament times, two “wave loaves” (Leviticus 23:17, 20) were brought out of the habitations of the congregation as the firstfruits unto the Lord. Just so the New Testament Church was gathered out of this world as the firstfruits of His salvation, in fulfillment of the meaning of the wave loaves.

We have all, if we have been converted, become a part of that New Testament Church. We have become part of what was symbolized by those wave loaves.

And just as the wave sheaf was lifted up into the air and waved, symbolizing Christ’s trip to heaven and return, so the wave loaves were lifted up and waved, symbolizing that we too shall for a moment leave this solid Earth when we ascend to meet Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) before we return with Him to stand on the Mount of Olives as He begins His millennial rule (Acts 1:11; Zechariah 14:3-4).

Most Not Now Called

God has not cast away His people, Israel. But He blinded them for a temporary period of time so that through their fall, salvation came to the Gentiles, who, through Christ, are individually grafted in, or spiritually adopted into, the family of Israel (Romans 11).

This is the dispensation when God is calling a people for His name to be kings and priests, reigning with Christ in the Kingdom during the thousand years (Revelation 5:10).

“After this”—after this dispensation of taking out of the Gentiles a people for His name—“I will return,” promises the Eternal. What for? “[A]nd will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I [Christ, not men] will set it up.”

Why? “That the residue of men might seek after the Lord …” (Acts 15:14-17—study this again!).

During this present Church age, the descendants of ancient Judah and Israel are blinded. After this, Christ will return, and then the rest of men—blinded Israel, and Gentiles alike—will seek after the Lord when Satan is chained and Christ reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords!

Those of the firstfruits of His salvation, made immortal, will then reign with Him as kings and priests in the wonderful work of building a new civilization.

During this time Israel is mostly blinded until the fullness of the Gentiles come in; and so (Romans 11:26) all Israel shall, then, be saved from sin; for the Deliverer, Christ, shall come out of Zion! All Israel shall be brought to repentance and saved from sin—how? Because Christ turns ungodliness from mortal Israel by forgiving sin.

Now, in this dispensation, Israel has not believed, and the tabernacle of David is fallen down (Romans 11:31-32), that, through the mercy of the Gentiles and the small “elect” in Israel, picked out in this age, acting as kings and priests with Christ, they, also, then, may obtain mercy!

How wonderful is God’s great plan of redemption, when we understand it, as we see it pictured in these annual holy days!

Only First Harvest Now

In James 1:18 and Romans 8:23, for example, the saints of this dispensation are called the firstfruits of God’s salvation. This dispensation, and the picking out of these people to bear His name, began on the day of Pentecost. This feast annually pictures this great event—this great “mystery” dispensation—in God’s redemptive plan!

Notice, too, that these feasts, Unleavened Bread and Pentecost, fall at the beginning of the year, and the great events they picture occur at the very beginning of the plan of salvation!

The group of holy days coming at the end of the year all symbolize tremendous events in God’s plan of redemption to occur, yet future, at the end of the dispensation! They all come in the seventh month—and their fulfillment will introduce the seventh thousand-years since creation!

The churches of this world today teach it is the mission of the Church to save the world. They teach that all who ever shall be saved are being saved, now, in this present dispensation. They teach that “probation ends” at, or prior to, the Second Coming of Christ.

If this be true, what a failure is God’s plan! Only a very, very few have been truly saved in this dispensation. One third of all living on Earth today have never even heard the only name whereby we may be saved!

Are they—the majority of all living, eternally lost because they never heard—lost and condemned without a chance? The common teaching is that God has cast away His people Israel, and they are eternally doomed and lost. Had they been keeping these annual holy days, commanded to be kept forever—all kept faithfully by the New Testament Church as recorded in Acts and in Church history—they would have understood God’s wonderful plan.

We are not to convert everyone in the world in this age, but to declare the gospel. What gospel? The good news of the Kingdom—the good news of the thousand years of restitution of all things when Christ returns to reign in power and great glory!

Let us understand this. During this time Israel is blinded in part—but only until the completion of this Gentile dispensation. During this time, only the minority of Gentiles—Chinese, people of India and Russia—have even heard the name of Christ.

The good news of the coming Kingdom is to be preached as a witness. Many have been called during this time, but only few actually chosen, and still fewer have remained faithful to the end.

They—the people picked out for His name—shall be made immortal and shall reign during the thousand years of the Kingdom upon Earth. Then Israel’s blindness will be removed. They were blinded until the end of Gentile times. The heavens received Jesus until these times of restitution of all things.

Those now gathered, since that day of Pentecost, June 17, a.d. 31, are the firstfruits only, of God’s plan of salvation. This dispensation, then, is picking out only the “firstfruits” of those to be saved. And they are being tried and tested to qualify for positions as kings and priests in the Kingdom, to effect, then, the real salvation of the world.

When Christ Returns

Then it is that God shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people—Israel (Isaiah 11:11).

Then it is that “… the Lord will come with fire, and … by fire and by his sword will the Lord plead with all flesh …. And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape [these plagues] of them unto the nations [Gentiles] … that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles” (Isaiah 66:15-16, 19).

Then it is that “living waters shall go out from Jerusalem,” and the Gentile nations that have not heard previously “shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles”! (Zechariah 14:8, 16).

Then it is that “many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain [nation] of the Lord … and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares … neither shall they learn war any more. … In that day, saith the Lord … the Lord shall reign over them in mount Zion from henceforth, even for ever” (Micah 4:2-3, 6-7). This does not apply to God’s Church now—but to the glorious time of the Kingdom, after Christ returns. What a wonderful plan of redemption!

Adam sinned. All have sinned. From Adam to now we behold a chronicle of man without God—of human suffering and failure.

And thus God, in His great wisdom, has permitted men to prove to themselves what sinners they are—how helpless they are, of themselves!

And finally we shall have to learn the lesson that it is only when God Himself undertakes to save men—by sending Jesus to rule with a rod of iron—that the world can really be saved! And so, those now being saved are a firstfruits of salvation, and will have the very great honor of being Christ’s assistants in that wonderful Kingdom work of redemption!

That is God’s true plan of redemption, as taught from Genesis to Revelation! And how contrary to the popular teaching! But it is the plan, nevertheless, pictured in God’s annual holy days. And had the churches continued to keep these holy days, they would never have lost sight of this plan, and come under the deception of false religionists!

Pentecost Observed by New Testament Church of God

Just as we found the true Church of God continuing to observe the Days of Unleavened Bread and the Passover, so they continued to observe Pentecost. Read it: 1 Corinthians 16:8; Acts 20:16.

Had they not been assembled in a holy convocation on the first Pentecost after everything that was abolished had been done away, we never could have read in our Bibles the sublime record of the second chapter of Acts.

Now a “holy convocation” means a holy assembly of the Church, convoked under absolute authority. Look up the word convocation in the dictionary. It is an assembly where everyone is commanded, under authority, to be present. The Sabbath is a weekly holy convocation. We are commanded, therefore, to assemble ourselves together. Each of these annual days is a holy convocation. The early Church obeyed. Do we?

Continue Reading: Chapter 3: Feast of Trumpets and Day of Atonement