Pentecost, the Festival of Firstfruits

Randall Ricker and John Blanchard

God’s festivals outline His wonderful plan for salvation. The first festival is Passover, which reminds us that Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins so that we can be reconciled to God the Father. The second festival, the Days of Unleavened Bread, teaches us that we must be putting sin out of our lives. The third festival is Pentecost.

Pentecost is the holy day with four names. Turn to Exodus chapter 23, verse 16, which is a parallel chapter, in part, to Leviticus 23 where all of the festivals are listed. Verse 16: “and the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field…” So this festival is called the Feast of Harvest and is also called Firstfruits. Turn to Numbers 28, verse 26, which gives another name: “Also on the day of the firstfruits, when you bring a new grain offering to the Lord at your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work.” Here again we have it called the Firstfruits, but also the Feast of Weeks. In the New Testament, which we will be turning to later, it is also called Pentecost, which means “fiftieth” in Greek, giving us our fourth name for this holy day.

Read verse 15 of Leviticus 23: “And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord.” We are to count beginning with the day after the Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread, to the fiftieth day, which falls on a Sunday in May or June.

Verse 17: “You shall bring from your habitations two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Eternal.”

What does firstfruits mean? Firstfruits is that which is harvested first. In the area around Jerusalem and some other parts of the world, there are two harvest seasons. There is a small harvest in the spring when grain such as barley and wheat is reaped. That is the firstfruit harvest. In the autumn there is a larger harvest of olives, figs, dates, and other produce. These physical harvests can be compared to God’s spiritual harvests.

The spiritual firstfruits harvest has taken almost 6000 years to prepare. In Old Testament times, God called only a few prophets, and even in New Testament times God has called only a small group.

The New Testament Church began on Pentecost. Let’s look at Luke chapter 24:49: “‘Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.’” Tarry is an old English word which means wait. God had planned this out, and He was already giving the apostles instructions.

Turn to Acts chapter 1, verse 4: “And being assembled together with them, He [referring to Jesus Christ] commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’”

Going on to verse 8: “‘But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’” Verse 15: “And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty)…” Thousands of people heard Jesus Christ preach and saw the miracle of the loaves and fishes and all of the other miracles. Many heard John the Baptist preach prior to that. Yet there were only a hundred and twenty disciples at this point! Not everyone was being called.

Finally in Acts chapter 2:1 we read about Pentecost 31 A.D., when they were to receive the power: “Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Here “tongues” refers to other languages.

Acts 2, verse 41: “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.”

Verse 46: “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the Church daily those who were being saved.” This really was the Church being formed on Pentecost in 31 A.D.

Paul wrote in I Corinthians 3:6-11: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Paul knew that the people he labored among and taught 2,000 years ago were God’s field to produce a crop, forming a very special building. The crop was the righteous godly character that the people were forming. God called out people to form the grass of His field at the time, a comparative few amongst all those on the earth. They were what we call the firstfruits, allowed to understand the mysteries of the kingdom and bear fruit one hundred, sixty, or thirtyfold.

James refers to the firstfruits in James 1:17-18: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”

The prophets of the Old Testament and those who followed in their steps were the firstfruits, and God used these people for His purpose. They suffered greatly in order to live His way, record His word, and point the way for us.

These form a foundation for God to carefully build a kingdom. These firstfruits form a government to help establish and rule this kingdom, which is almost ready to burst forth at Christ’s return.

Right now we need to realize that we are well along in the spiritual times and seasons, and we are now making the transition from spring harvest to fall. The earth is about to widely receive of God’s seed and the light which will cause it to burst forth in spiritual abundance! It is time for God’s secrets to be known throughout the world and no longer be hidden from the earth’s multitudes. God’s truth is about to fall all over the earth.

You and I live in the transition time as God moves from calling firstfruits, to the massive calling at the time of Christ’s coming and the start of the wonderful Millennium when Christ will reign, instead of Satan.