What is the significance of the Holy Day of Pentecost in the Bible? This Holy Day has always been one I’ve been a bit confused by. It seems random. It doesn’t have any specific requirements like most other Holy Days in the Bible and because of that you might mistakenly believe that it’s not that important, but let me tell you… after studying this year I can confidently say just exactly how important this day is to God…and it’s completely fascinating!
So where do you start? Well, I start with the Old Testament command, which comes from Exodus 34:22. Pentecost comes exactly 50 days after Passover. Pentecost literally means “50” and so the command is to count 50 days from Passover. The Jewish name for this Holy Day is “Shavuot,” which means “weeks” and that leads to the other name this Holy Day has, which is “Feast of Weeks.” There are three major “feasts” that men were commanded to appear before the Lord and those feasts were The Feast of Unleavened Bread, The Feast of Weeks, and The Feast of Tabernacles. The way these feasts are marked is by harvest time. The Feast of Unleavened Bread begins the season of the grain harvest with the harvesting of barley, the Feast of Pentecost signifies the end of the grain harvest with the end of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Tabernacles is marked by the end of the fruit (grape) harvest. Now, this goes really deep… but let’s START with why this post began and that is because of Pentecost.
Pentecost is all about the grain harvest. So, what exactly is the significance of “grain” in the Bible? The physical representation of grain is “energy.” Carbohydrates are life giving for humans. Grains provide fuel for the body, fiber to keep things moving, protein for sustaining. In essence, the grains people were eating in the Old Testament were life sustaining. The grains we eat today aren’t nearly the same. Today’s grains are processed and refined and enriched to the point that they aren’t even close to their natural state, but the grains of the Old Testament were whole and unrefined and filled with nutrients that were essential for sustaining LIFE. It was used as a way to withstand a famine in those days and was a necessary means for staying alive (Nehemiah 5:2). Metaphorically, Jesus is called “the bread of life (John 6:35)!” Because while bread sustains the physical body, JESUS sustains the spiritual body. So what does this mean? Physical grain is energy for PHYSICAL work. But Spiritual grain is energy for SPIRITUAL work!
Metaphorically, grain in the Bible is used to represent concepts such as love, faith, and charity and the desire to do good and in that sense I feel that those things are what make up spiritual energy along with prayer and Bible study. This is the spiritual grain we need to be feeding ourselves DAILY to sustain our spiritual lives. This particularly resonates when you understand the grain offering. The grain offering was markedly different than the burnt offering. The burnt offering was used as an atonement for sins and it was very strict in the way in which it was presented to the Lord. The grain offering, on the other hand, was not as strict. It had general requirements, but the way in which it was presented to the Lord allowed for some “personalization.” Grain offerings were done AFTER burnt offerings and they represented WORSHIP to God and an acknowledgement of His provision. It was an acknowledgement of the fact that God has sustained their lives by providing rain in its seasons in order to provide for the things that give them life (Deuteronomy 11:14). Just as Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice for us so that we no longer needed to make a burnt offering to the Lord, He also was the grain offering for us. The ultimate act of worship and acknowledgement of the provision of the Lord. So in essence, this is how we take the grain offering of the Old Testament and apply it spiritually! We worship him with what we have and in our own way and that can be different from person to person. What remains the same is that our offering of worship be the VERY BEST we have to give, that it be without leaven (sin) or honey (which hastens sin), thoughtfully prepared with a fragrant oil of frankincense (representing prayer), and preserved with salt (a recognition of the covenant He has made with us). Pentecost and the grain offering given at that time really signify to me the importance God places on personal relationship with Him. A genuine desire to serve Him and to be His spiritual energy out in the world.
To elaborate on the kind of relationship He seeks with us, I think it’s only appropriate to visit the most memorable scripture about Pentecost in the Bible, which is Acts 2:1-4. It says,
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
This event is often known as the “birth” of the church. Context here is that in the previous chapter, before Jesus had left to return to heaven, he told the apostles that the Holy Spirit would soon pour out over them as a gift from the father in heaven so that they may be his witnesses at all the ends of the earth. John had baptized them with water, but this was going to be the gift of the Holy Spirit directly from God poured out directly onto the apostles. So, when the day of Pentecost came, the Holy Spirit poured out onto the apostles and the amazing sound of the Holy Spirit drew a crowd and when the apostles spoke, everyone could hear them in their own native tongue. Kind of amazing right?? What a miracle! So Peter began addressing the crowd about what was to come and how in the last days, what happened to them will happen to everyone. The Holy Spirit will pour out on ALL flesh and there will be many other wonders and signs to signify that the Lord is coming. The people wanted to know what they should do with this information and so he told them to repent and be baptized so that they might receive forgiveness for their sins and receive the Holy Spirit. Because of his message, 3,000 people were baptized and added to the church that day. Afterword, the people were truly devoted to the teachings, to fellowship, to breaking of bread, and prayer. They took care of one another by giving whatever they could to those in need. The people had glad and generous hearts and were praised by God and because of the many wonders that were done, people were baptized and added to the church every single day after that. A pretty beautiful example of how the church should operate and function as a family unit and reach out to add more people to the church family daily (Acts 1 and 2)!
This glimpse into how the Holy Spirit creates a church really emphasizes so much about the importance of the harvests the Holy Days are signified by, which leads us to the next important piece of the puzzle, which is the actual harvesting. At Pentecost, WHEAT is what is being harvested. So how was wheat harvested in biblical times? At harvest, usually the months of May or June, grain was cut with a sickle, gathered into bundles, and then pounded and threshed to separate the chaff from the grain. Threshing of wheat is a symbol for judgement in the Bible (Micah 4:12). Once the wheat is threshed it must be winnowed, the sorting of worthless chaff from the useable grain. The wheat gets thrown into the air and the light chaff blows away while the heavier grain falls to the ground. The winnowing of wheat, like threshing, is used to represent God’s judgement of sin (Matthew 3:12, Luke 3:17).
Now this part is where it gets really interesting. The three different harvest feasts have huge significance and here’s why. Barley is what is harvested first at Unleavened Bread. Barley is a hardy plant that can withstand drought and extreme heat and cold. It is harvested easily just with the winnowing process. Wheat is what is harvested at Pentecost. Wheat, unlike barley, cannot tolerate extreme conditions. It is harvested with an extra first step of “threshing” before it can be winnowed. Grapes are what is harvested at the Feast of Tabernacles. Grape plants require a lot of work and pruning to produce any fruit. The plants were also much more subject to thieves and robbers. The plants need a great deal of care to keep from growing wild and getting covered in thorns and nettles. In other words, it takes a great deal of care to get anything useable out of a grape vine. The grapes are harvested by picking the fruit and putting them into baskets and wine is made from the grapes by first stomping on them to extract the juice and this was done by entire families from men and women to children as well.
These three harvests have deeper meanings. The plants represent three different types of people and the harvests represent the three different resurrections. Barley represents “overcomers”, those not shaken in their faith by the trials of the world. Wheat represents “believers” in general. These are people who believe, but are can be easily shaken in their faith by the trials of the world. Grapes represent the unbelievers. It is extremely difficult to get fruit to grow in an unbeliever and it takes a lot of effort and pruning and care and once the vine has gone feral its very difficult to salvage. In this same way, the harvests represent the three different resurrections. The first resurrection is the steady believers. The second resurrection is the believers who are not steady. The third resurrection is the unbelievers. All three groups have the opportunity for everlasting life in the kingdom, but it will take three VERY different processes to get the “useable stuff” out of each group.
So that is the larger picture, but the one that applies to most of us is the second harvest. The representation of believers in general. Pentecost! Pentecost is even more significant when you think about it that way. He wants ALL of us with Him in His Kingdom. We will all go through various kinds of refinement processes so that He can glean what is HIS inside us and I can tell you that by studying the harvesting processes, it is not going to be pleasant the farther away from Him we are when we come before Him on that day of judgement. I want the LEAST amount of work to be done to me that day. I want to just be READY to be harvested! I want to soak up the Holy Spirit and only be blown about by God’s lead and not by the lies of this world. I want to grow to be more and more like barley every day! To be evidence of the glory of God and to be steady in my relationship with the Lord, despite the challenges I may face. My prayer is that God grows me to be hardy in Him and my prayer for you, if you have read this far, is that He grows you to be hardy too! READY for harvest and ready to present ourselves as living offerings of spiritual grain for the Lord on that day.