Passover To Pentecost | One Great Story Of Redemption In Christ!
“Now when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like a violent wind blowing came from heaven and filled the entire house where they were sitting. And tongues spreading out like a fire appeared to them and came to rest on each one of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit” – Acts 2:1-4 (NET)
What Is The Day Of Pentecost?
What we know as the Feast of Pentecost or the day of Pentecost had its origins in a Jewish harvest feast called Shavuot – the Feast of Harvest or the Feast of Weeks. This feast is mentioned several times in the Old Testament and was a celebration of the early weeks of harvest, occurring a little over 50 days after the celebration of Passover. The Jewish calendar was marked by several important feasts and festivals; landmarks by which the passing of the year was observed and celebrated. Passover and the day of Pentecost were two such festivals.
It was during the celebration of Pentecost that Jesus, having received the promise of the Holy Spirit from his Father, poured this Spirit out like rain upon his followers (Acts 2:1-4). In this article, we are going to explore the significance of these series of festivals leading up to and including Pentecost and the remarkable application that they have in God’s great plan of deliverance and redemption in Jesus.
Firstly, let’s start by noting that Pentecost needs to be understood in the context of a much bigger story. Pentecost, in fact, completed the series of connected feasts (festivals) celebrated by the ancient nation of Israel that began with the Feast of Passover and ended with celebrating the first fruits of the harvest, the final celebration being Pentecost. Considered together, these feasts tell one sweeping story of redemption from death and slavery to freedom and abundant harvest blessing.
The Feast of Firstfruits and the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) were celebrations of the beginning (the first fruits) of the grain harvest. During these festivals, the people would give an offering to God, made from the first of the grain harvest. These were offered in thankful acknowledgement of the abundant harvest blessings that they had received; FIRSTLY; because God had redeemed them from slavery in Egypt (the Passover) to now live freely in possession of their own land, enabling them to plant crops and receive harvest blessings, and SECONDLY; an acknowledgment that each year God sent rain at the right time to create the abundant harvest.
How Are These Festivals Connected?
These festivals are connected together as part of one continuous story and this story was a foreshadowing of a much bigger story fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Here’s how they are connected:
(1) The Passover Feast celebrates salvation and deliverance from Egypt. This deliverance was accomplished firstly by believing in the blood of the Passover lamb and, subsequently, by the people of Israel’s Exodus from slavery. Passover didn’t just celebrate deliverance from death and slavery, but deliverance to freedom. Israel celebrated that now they were a free people living in their own land and experiencing the blessings of God. God promised to ‘pour out’ rain at the right time, bringing God’s blessing of an abundant harvest and fruitfulness.
The Application: Jesus died at the same time that the people of Israel were offering their Passover lamb. However, Jesus was the true Passover lamb that God had provided from His own flock, a sinless (unblemished) lamb to deliver His people from their servitude to sin.
“Where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” – Genesis 22:7-8 (KJV)
“Then the day for the feast of Unleavened Bread came, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed… Now when the hour came, Jesus took his place at the table and the apostles joined him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer… “This is my body which is given for you”… “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” – Luke 22:14,15,19,20 (NET)
“For our Passover Lamb has already been offered in sacrifice – even Christ” – 1 Corinthians 5:7 (WEY)
“The payment that freed you was the precious blood of Christ, the lamb with no defects or imperfections. He is the lamb who was known long ago before the world existed.” – 1 Pet 1:19-20 (GWT)
“The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and exclaimed, “Look, that is the Lamb of God who is to take away the sin of the world!” – John 1:29 (WEY)
(You can read more about the Passover and its significance here.)
(2) For seven days after Passover, another feast was celebrated known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This was considered a continuation of the Passover Feast. Any bread made with yeast had to be thrown out and during this week no leaven was eaten or allowed in the houses of the Israelites.
The Application: Leaven, in this case, represents the influence of sin and evil. As recipients of God’s “Passover blessings” in Christ, God invites His people to participate in and celebrate a life of holiness to Him, free from bondage to the slave master, Sin.
“Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” – 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 (NIV)
(3) Sometime during this seven day period of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, there was a feast day called the Feast of the Firstfruits. (This day was the day after the first Sabbath after Passover). On this day, an offering was made from the first sheaf (of barley) harvested from the grain harvest. It celebrated and acknowledged that God had blessed the people with the beginning of an anticipated great harvest to come.
The Application: This so happened to be the day that Jesus Christ rose from the grave, having conquered death, to live evermore! The reality of Jesus Christ being raised from the dead was the firstfruits (and guarantee) of a great harvest to come that all those in Jesus will also participate in!
“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Therefore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished… But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (i.e the sleep of death). For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive” – 1 Corinthians 15:17-22 (HCS)
(4) Then, from this day of the Feast of Firstfruits (the wheat harvest), seven weeks were to be counted. On the 50th day following the Feast of Firstfruits, another offering of firstfruits was made and this feast day was known as the Feast of Weeks (also called ‘Pentecost’, which means ‘fifty’), because it was a counting of weeks from the Feast of Firstfruits. So, effectively, there were two celebrations of the firstfruits of the grain harvest, 50 days apart. This seems strange and unnecessary until we see the wonderful fulfilment in Jesus and his people (both firstfruits of a great harvest).
Note: The Jewish people also called it the Feast of Completion, because it completed this series of connected feasts.
The Application: From the resurrection of Christ (the first human to be raised and to receive immortal life), we come to the day of Pentecost. It is on this day that the Spirit of God was poured out like rain, creating the firstfruits of a harvest of believers in Jesus; the firstfruits of a further harvest to come.
This Has Two Applications:
(1) The Spirit, poured out like rain to bless and gift new believers in Jesus, was the firstfruits given to them by the Spirit of God because of the victory of Jesus Christ as the Passover lamb. This was a demonstration of believers receiving the firstfruits of a much greater harvest and blessings yet to come in Christ. The full harvest blessing that believers will receive is when God, by His Spirit, makes them His children completely, by transforming their bodies and setting them entirely free from sin and death. This will be the completion of God’s Great Story of Redemption that began with Jesus Christ, the Passover lamb sacrificed for the sins of the world.
“Now when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like a violent wind blowing came from heaven and filled the entire house where they were sitting. And tongues spreading out like a fire appeared to them and came to rest on each one of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit” “This is what was spoken about through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it will be,’ God says, ‘that I will pour out my Spirit on all people” “This Jesus God raised up, and… exalted to the right hand of God, and having received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he has poured out what you both see and hear” – Acts 2:1-4,16-17,32-33 (NET)
“We who have the Spirit as the first (firstfruits) of God’s gifts also groan within ourselves as we wait for God to make us his children and set our whole being free” – Romans 8:23 (GNT)
(2) Every believer that experiences the final and complete redemption and freedom by Jesus Christ at his second coming will be considered the firstfruits of the harvest offered up to God and the Lamb. This will be the beginning of the ultimate harvest of gathering people into God’s eternal life. Completely redeemed people are the firstfruits that have resulted because of Jesus, the Passover lamb!
“Then I looked, and there on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with Him were… (those) who had been redeemed from the earth…These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. They were redeemed, from the human race as the firstfruits for God and the Lamb” – Revelation 14:1-4 (HCS)
Jesus, speaking of a great harvest of people gathered into eternal life, said: “Don’t you say, ‘In four more months the harvest will be here’? I’m telling you to look and see that the fields are ready to be harvested. The person who harvests the crop… is gathering grain for eternal life” – John 4:35-36 (GWT)
“But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth” – 2 Thessalonians 2:11 (WEY)
“In accordance with His will He made us His children through the Message of the truth, so that we might, in a sense, be the firstfruits of the things which He has created” – James 1:18 (WEY)
So we see that the Feast of Pentecost was the completion of a series of feasts that began with Passover. They are deliberately connected together as part of one great story of redemption in Jesus Christ!
The Relevance Of Pentecost For Us Today
‘Pentecost’ means that: A far greater deliverance from ‘Egyptian-like’ slavery has been accomplished! Jesus “set at liberty all those who through fear of death had been subject to lifelong slavery” – Hebrews 2:14 (WEY). It was accomplished because Jesus Christ laid down his life for everyone and offered himself as ‘the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world’. Jesus was the true ‘unblemished (sinless + perfect) Passover lamb’, whose blood (i.e his life given) saves people from the Egyptian-like judgement of God that will come upon the earth. Salvation and release from slavery are received by having faith in the salvation accomplished by the shedding of his blood, to whosoever believes throughout the whole world. As Jesus announced; “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me… He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives… to set free the oppressed and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people.” – Luke 4:18-19 (GNT). The harvest blessing of the Spirit being poured out was the promised visible confirmation of Jesus’ resurrection, victory and exaltation! “This Jesus God raised up, and we are all witnesses of it. So then, exalted to the right hand of God, and having received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he has poured out what you both see and hear.” – Acts 2:32-33 (NET)
Pentecost means that: A far greater ‘Moses-like’ deliverer has taken captive and possession of ‘those who had been captives and slaves in Egypt’. “Christ has generously divided out his gifts to us. As the Scriptures say, “When he went up to the highest place (i.e exalted to the Father’s right hand), he led away many prisoners and gave gifts to people” – Ephesians 4:7-8 (CEV) King Jesus transferred his people into his kingdom, “For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His dear Son” – Colossians 1:3 (NLT). To use harvest language, his saved people are already enjoying ‘the firstfruits’ of the new kingdom they belong to – with greater blessings yet to come! The king’s blessings are like rain poured down from heaven, giving an abundant harvest for the enjoyment of his kingdom people. As Psalm 72:6 (GNT) predicted of the Messiah, “May the king be like rain on the fields, like showers falling on the land”. Right now, his people are already ‘eating the firstfruits of his blessings’ as a result of the Spirit being poured out (and there is much more to come). “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing… because we are united with Christ… so that in the coming ages He might display the limitless riches of His grace that comes to us through His kindness in the Messiah Jesus”. – Ephesians 1:3; (NLT) Ephesians 2:7 (ISV)
Pentecost means that: Former slaves are now living in the kingdom of God as free men. Though free, they now willingly and lovingly serve their new king and they seek to do what is best for the advancement of his kingdom! These people of the kingdom simply want others to also live in this kingdom and experience the blessings of the king! The new king is amazing, he is abundantly blessing his people! His presence is always with them even when he is ‘in his palace’! He shows his favour and blessings (i.e forgiveness, grace and active involvement in their lives to complete the good work he began in them) to everyone that acknowledges his kingship, without favouritism. – Acts 10:34-36 (WEB) People from every nation under heaven, men and women, people of any social status, rich or poor, slaves or masters, male or female, Jews or Gentiles, elders or young people, upon all who cry out for his help and call upon his name, he pours out his kingdom blessings. “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is ‘Lord of all’, who richly blesses all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” – Romans 10:11-13 (NET) ( See also Acts 2:17-18,21,33,38-39).
He treats all who put their trust in him as if they are his own body! He nourishes and cherishes each person and their spiritual wellbeing (Eph 5:25-30). His wise ‘words of eternal life’ (John 6:68) clean and purify the hearts, minds and souls of his people and, to this end, he has poured out his Spirit like rain upon them, gifting and guiding his people to be his instruments to edify each other. (Ephesians 4:7-13) In this way, even though he has ‘palace duties’ to perform and is not physically present with believers, he has promised to be with those who are ‘his body’ by his Spirit always, ‘to the very end of the world’ (Matthew 28:20; John 14:16,18,26).
By the Spirit, he works in and through his people, for his people. The Spirit is the active presence of Jesus in the life of a believer, guiding and transforming them into authentic children of God, who, like Jesus, the son of God, are caused to naturally cry out to God for help (i.e to trust and depend upon God as their father). “Certainly, all who are guided by God’s Spirit are God’s children. You haven’t received the spirit of slaves that leads you into fear again. Instead, you have received the spirit of God’s adopted children by which we call out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” – Romans 8:14-16 (GWT)
On the day of Pentecost, 3000 people were ‘cut to the heart’ upon listening to the Apostle Peter’s speech and repented from mistreating, hating and murdering God’s king. They confessed their sin and chose to pledge their allegiance to Jesus Christ, renouncing citizenship to the ruler of this world and then participated in a ‘citizenship acceptance ceremony’ (i.e baptism Acts 2:38-39). As part of the ceremony, having confessed Jesus as their new ‘Lord’ and king, they were fully baptised in water! The ceremony was a re-enactment of the victory of King Jesus in his death, burial and resurrection.
The king continues to invite all people to identify with his victory over death and with his resurrection to eternal life! His new glorious body is now completely free from the possibility of ever sinning! He is now alive – forever free to serve God! As believers, we share in his victory because, amazingly, we are now fully considered to be part of the body of Christ and, in him, we also become inheritors of his kingdom and are adopted as the children of God.
There will be another great ‘citizenship ceremony’ in the future when our adoption will become a full reality. “We who have the Spirit as the first (firstfruits) of God’s gifts also groan within ourselves as we wait for God to make us his children and set our whole being free.” – Romans 8:23 (GNT)
Paul the Apostle explains in Romans chapter 6 that all those baptised into Christ are thankful because; they were once slaves of sin but have now been set free to live in righteous service and obedience to the king. He explains that there is no ‘harvest’ to be had in our former lives as slaves to sin, only death. But now, as citizens of the kingdom of King Jesus, believers enjoy reaping the rewards and blessings that come as a result of living a life of holiness. The practical outworking of indulgence in sin is destructiveness, but right living leads to life and peace. Further, for all those in Jesus Christ, they have forgiveness and grace daily because of his glorious victory and holy life. The end result will be to receive the greatest ‘harvest blessing’ ever – eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord!
“But thanks be to God that, though you once were slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were committed. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness… What fruit did you reap at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The outcome of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the fruit you reap leads to holiness, and the outcome is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” – Romans 6:17-23 (BSB)